Below is a list of some of the most successful people in human history that did not attend college. If you want to see a video on the collapse of college tuition rates and the devaluation of a college degree, click here to read that article and watch those videos:
The number one comment I have received from people during the No Levy Campaign for Lakota is that we must spend money on education because we want successful students to become successful adults. But how true is that statement and what is the true value of education if so many successful people achieved success without college?
(What are the top 20 useless degrees?)
When educators, people who make their living educating students, whether it is in college, or public school, speak they are people I listen to with reality filters. They aren’t much different to me than used car salesmen, or one of those salesmen who sell time shares. They’ll tell you every reason why you need their service, and once you buy their service and get home with it, you wonder why you bought anything from them in the first place.
I once sat with my wife for an entire afternoon in Hilton Head and listened to a kind little man tell me why it would be good for me to buy a time share condo in Hilton Head. When I told him no, he looked terribly sad, and told me how his kids were going to starve, and genuinely tried to make me feel terrible for him. Thankfully, I told him no even though I felt bad about it, and looking back, if I had bought the condo, I’d regret it now. Because then I’d be obligated to always return to the same vacation spot, or as they do now, one of the various spots in their network. I wouldn’t be free to go wherever I wanted year after year. And it would have been a terrible waste of money.
When educators say that kids must do well in grade school so they can go to college, and they must go to college to get a good job, they are not telling the whole truth and it comes out sounding like a time share sales pitch. In fact, some of the most successful people of all time in the history of our culture did not attend college, or dropped out of college. College will help you get a job, and some decent middle class money. But it doesn’t do much to help you create one. And in America, if you want the real money, you have to create a job.
(MORE GREAT VIDEOS AT THIS LINK. CALL COLLEGE WHAT IT REALLY IS)
The below list is a composition of names that either did not attend college or dropped out. Some didn’t even get out of high school. It’s important to analyze what exactly we truly value in education, because if we are only interested in raw success, then our culture should follow in the path of the below individuals.
But if the goal is social engineering indoctrinated through an education institution, then we should continue on as we have. But if the goal is success for our children……why wouldn’t we teach them to do as the people below have done.
People like Harry Truman, Abe Lincoln, George Washington and
Thomas Edison are no-brainers. However, here’s a list of people who either never went to college or dropped-out of college, and went onto become famous and/or successful:
Now as you look over this list, please note how many well-known people had a tremendous amount of home schooling, and remember that currently, home schooled kids out perform their public school counterparts by 30% or more. Why do you think that is?
The Quick List: After this list is more detail description of each name and their personal situation. There are a lot of actors on this list, and the only reason I kept them on here, is that often they speak on behalf of political movements, and therefore, their background must be understood.
S. Daniel Abraham, billionaire founder of Slim-Fast.
Ansel Adams, photographer. Dropped out of high school.
Christina Aguilera, singer, songwriter. High school dropout.
Hans Christian Andersen, short story author, fairy tales.
John Jacob Astor, multimillionaire businessman.
Carl Bernstein, Watergate reporter, Washington Post.
Yogi Berra, baseball player, coach, and manager.
Timonthy Blixseth, billionaire founder of Yellowstone Club.
Daniel Boone, explorer, frontier leader.
Ray Bradbury, science fiction author.
Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Music.
Sergey Brin, billionaire founder of Google.
Edgar Bronfman Jr., billionaire heir to the Seagram liquor fortune.
John Carmack, cofounder of Id Software.
Andrew Carnegie, industrialist and philanthropist.
Scott Carpenter, astronaut.
John Chancellor, TV journalist and anchorman.
Winston Churchill, British prime minister.
Charles Culpeper, multimillionaire owner and CEO of Coca Cola.
Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers.
Charles Dickens, bestselling novelist.
Walt Disney — yes, THAT Walt Disney.
George Eastman, multimillionaire inventor and founder of Kodak.
Larry Ellison, billionaire co-founder of Oracle software company.
Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies.
Carly Fiorina, CEO, Hewlett-Packard.
Bobby Fischer, chess master.
Henry Ford, billionaire founder of Ford Motor Company.
R. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome.
Bill Gates, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft.
J. Paul Getty, billionaire oilman.
Amadeo Peter Giannini, multimillionaire founder of Bank of America.
Hyman Golden, multimillionaire cofounder of Snapple.
Barry Goldwater, U.S. senator and presidential candidate.
David Green, billionaire founder of Hobby Lobby.
Joyce C. Hall, founder of Hallmark.
Harold Hamm, billionaire oil wildcatter.
William Randolph Hearst, newspaper publisher.
Peter Jennings, news anchor.
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers and Pixar Animation.
Dean Kamen, multimillionaire inventor of the Segway.
Ray Kroc, multimillionaire founder of McDonald’s.
Tommy Lasorda, baseball manager.
Ralph Lauren, billionaire fashion designer, founder of Polo.
Charles Lindbergh, aviator.
Jack London, bestselling novelist.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazilian president.
Mary Lyon, founder of Mount Holyoke College (America’s first women’s college).
John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods.
Steve Madden, shoe designer.
John Major, British prime minister.
Herman Melville, novelist, Moby Dick.
Karl Menninger, psychiatrist.
Claude Monet, painter.
Dustin Moskovitz, multi-millionaire co-founder of Facebook.
Walter Nash, prime minister of New Zealand.
David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue airlines.
David Oreck, founder of The Oreck Corporation.
George Orwell (aka Eric Blair), author of Animal Farm and 1984.
Larry Page, billionaire founder of Google.
James A. Pike, Episcopal bishop.
Ron Popeil, multimillionaire founder of Ronco.
Leandro Rizzuto, billionaire founder of Conair.
John D. Rockefeller Sr., billionaire founder of Standard Oil.
Karl Rove, presidential advisor.
William Safire, columnist for the New York Times.
Colonel Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).
Vidal Sassoon, multimillionaire founder of Vidal Sassoon.
Richard Schulze, billionaire founder of Best Buy.
William Shakespeare, playwright, poet.
John Simplot, billionaire potato king.
Isaac Merrit Singer, sewing machine inventor.
Walter L. Smith, president of Florida A&M University.
Will Smith, Grammy-winning rapper, actor.
Alfred Taubman, billionaire chairman of Sotheby.
Jack Crawford Taylor, billionaire founder of Enterprise Rent-a-Car.
Dave Thomas, billionaire founder of Wendy’s.
Ted Turner, billionaire founder of CNN and TBS.
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens).
Cornelius Vanderbilt, railroad magnate.
Theodore Waitt, billionaire founder of Gateway Computers.
DeWitt Wallace, founder and publisher of Reader’s Digest.
Ty Warner, billionaire developer of Beanie Babies.
Sidney Weinberg, managing partner of Goldman Sachs.
Steve Wozniak, billionaire co-founder of Apple.
Wilbur Wright, inventor of the airplane.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, billionaire.
The Long List:
- S. Daniel Abraham, billionaire founder of Slim-Fast. Joined the Army at the age of 18 and fought in Europe during World War II. Did not attend college.
- Roman Abramovich, richest man in Russia, billionaire. Dropped out of college. He studied at the Moscow State Auto Transport Institute before taking a leave of absence from academics to go into business. He later earned a correspondence degree from the Moscow State Law Academy
- Abigail Adams, U.S. first lady. Home schooled.
- Ansel Adams, photographer. Dropped out of high school.
- Bryan Adams, singer, songwriter. High school dropout.
- Calpernia Adams, showgirl, transsexual. Never attended college. As she noted, “My parents thought that college leads you away from God, so they hadn’t saved any money.”
- Gautam Adani, commodities billionaire from India. Dropped out of college.
- Sheldon Adelson, billionaire casino owner. Dropped out of City College of New York to become a court reporter. He made his first fortune doing trade shows.
- Mortimer Adler, author, educator, editor. Left high school at the age of 15 to work. Later received his high school equivalency degree and attended Columbia University.
- Ferran Adria, chef. Has been called the world’s greatest chef. Did not finish high school.
- Miguel Adrover, fashion designer. High school dropout.
- Ben Affleck, actor, screenwriter. Left the University of Vermont after one semester; then dropped out of Occidental College to pursue acting.
- Andre Agassi, tennis player, winner of 8 Grand Slam titles. Quit school in the ninth grade and turned tennis pro at the age of 16. His father would drive the kids to school but, instead, actually took them to local tennis courts to practice.
- Dianna Agron, actress. “I didn’t take the typical path and go to college after high school. Instead, I saved up money from teaching dance classes and moved to L.A.”
- Christina Aguilera, singer, songwriter. High school dropout.
- Danny Aiello, actor. Dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to join the army. Later received a high school equivalency degree.
- Troy Aikman, Superbowl-winning football quarterback, TV sports commentator. In 2009, he finally graduated from UCLA, 20 years after leaving college to play in the National Football League. Aikman had promised his mother, when he left school just two courses shy of a degree, that he would return and finish. In 2009, at the age of 42, he finally fulfilled that commitment, earning A’s in his last two courses, thus earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
- Malin Akerman, model, actress. Enrolled in York University (Toronto) but left after about a year to see what else was out there. She moved to Los Angeles to become an actress.
- Dennis Albaugh, billionaire founder of pesticide company Albaugh Inc. Earned a 2-year agriculture business degree from Des Moines Community College. Did not continue on to a 4-year degree.
- Edward Albee, playwright. Dropped out of Trinity College after three semesters.
- Jack Albertson, Oscar-winning actor. High school dropout.
- Paul Allen, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, founder of Xiant software, owner of Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers. Dropped out of Washington State to start up Microsoft with Bill Gates.
- Peter Allen, singer, songwriter, composer. High school dropout.
- Rick Allen, rock star member of Def Leppard. High school dropout.
- Woody Allen, screenwriter, actor, director, and producer. Was thrown out of New York University after one semester for poor grades. Also dropped out of City College of New York. As he admitted, “I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics final. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”
- Steven-Elliot Altman, author. Left school at the beginning of the 10th grade and ran away from home. Entered college at the age of 16 and earned a degree at 19.
- Dhirubhai Ambani, billionaire Indian businessman. High school dropout.
- Wally “Famous” Amos, multimillionaire cookie entrepreneur, author, talent agent. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to join the U.S. Air Force.
- Hans Christian Andersen, short story author, fairy tales. Left home at the age of 14 to find work. Later attended Copenhagen Univesity.
- Paul Thomas Anderson, director of such movies as “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.” He attended film school at New York University but quit after two days because one professor dissed “Terminator 2” and another gave him a C for a writing assignment.
- Tom Anderson, co-founder of MySpace. A high school dropout.
- Walter Anderson, publisher, editor. High school dropout who later earned an equivalency degree.
- Mario Andretti, race-car driver, author. High school dropout who later earned an equivalency degree.
- Anthony Andrews, actor. High school dropout.
- Julie Andrews, Oscar-winning actress, singer, author. Dropped out of high school.
- Jennifer Aniston, actress. Never attended college.
“Jennifer Aniston says getting a nose job was the best thing she ever did. But keep in mind, she didn’t go to college, her marriage failed, her mom hates her, and she was in that Kevin Costner movie.” — Danielle Fishel, The Dish
- Christina Applegate, actress. High school dropout.
- Edwin Apps, British artist. High school dropout.
- Joan Armatrading, singer, songwriter. High school dropout.
- Billie Joe Armstrong, front man for Green Day punk rock band. High school dropout. As he noted, “I finally realized that high school didn’t make any sense for me then. So I quit.”
- Louis Armstrong, jazz musician, singer. Dropped out of high school.
- Peter Arnell, advertising executive. Never attended college. Talked his way into the advertising business after graduating from high school.
- Eddy Arnold, country music singer and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was 11 when his father died, so he turned to singing at church picnics and other venues to support his family. By the age of 17, he was singing in nearby honky-tonks and made his first radio appearance. He debuted at the Grand Ole Opry in 1943. Between 1945 and 1983, 145 of his songs made the country charts, with 28 of them at #1. He sold more than 85 million records.
- Cliff Arquette, aka Charlie Weaver. Comedian, entertainer. High school dropout.
- Danni Ahse, multimillionaire businesswoman, adult entertainment website operator, model, producer, dancer. High school dropout who later earned an equivalency degree.
- Brooke Astor, wealthy socialite, author, philanthropist. Dropped out of high school.
- John Jacob Astor, multimillionaire businessman. America’s first multimillionaire. High school dropout.
- Chet Atkins, country singer, author. High school dropout.
- Jane Austen, novelist. She and her sister attended schools in Oxford, Southampton, and Reading until the age of 11. After that time, their father taught them at home. Did not attend college.
- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, wrestler, actor. Dropped out of the University of North Texas a few credits shy of a physical education degree.
- Gene Autry, singing cowboy, actor, songwriter, producer, businessman, author, baseball team owner. High school dropout.
- Richard Avedon, photographer. High school dropout.
- Willy Aybar, baseball player. High school dropout.
- Dan Aykroyd, actor, comedian. Dropped out of Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
- Jimmy Santiago Baca, poet, activist, and filmmaker. At a young age, he ran away from the orphanage and lived on the streets, spending some time in juvenile detention centers. Before he was imprisoned for seven years for a narcotics conviction (a charge he’s denied), he was functionally illiterate. During his time in prison, he taught himself to read and write, eventually earning a GED. Baca has written ten books of poetry, a memoir, a book of essays, a book of short stories, a play, and a screenplay for the 1993 film Bound by Honor.
- Kevin Bacon, actor, singer, songwriter. High school dropout.
- Pearl Bailey, singer, actress. Dropped out of high school.
- Josephine Baker, singer, actress, dancer. High school dropout.
- Lucille Ball, actress, comedienne, producer. Co-founder of Desilu Studios. Late bought out her husband’s share to become the first woman to own and run a production studio. Dropped out of high school.
- Steve Ballmer, billionaire chief of Microsoft. Graduated from college, but dropped out of the Stanford MBA program to join Microsoft.
- Hubert Howe Bancroft, historian, bookseller. High school dropout.
- Tyra Banks, supermodel, TV host, and TV producer. Applied to college and was accepted by many colleges but deferred college when she received an offer to be a model in Paris.
- Brigitte Bardot, actress, model, author, animal rights activist. High school dropout.
- Etta Moten Barnett, singer, actress. Dropped out of high school to get married, but six years later attended and graduated from the University of Kansas.
- Ronald Baron, billionaire money manager, founder of Baron Capital. Dropped out of George Washington University law school to pursue a career on Wall Street.
- Roseanne Barr, actress, comedienne, producer, director. High school dropout.
Fantasia Barrino, singer, actress, American Idol winner. Dropped out of high school.
- Drew Barrymore, actress, producer, and director. High school dropout. Never attended college.
- John Bartlett, author and publisher, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Did not attend college, but ended up owning the University Bookstore at Harvard University.
- Donald Barthelme, bestselling short story author, college professor, museum director, newspaper reporter. “After experimenting with college, journalism, and marriage in Houston, he got sick of the provinces and lit out for New York City at 31.” (Time magazine). Although he continued to take classes at the University of Houston after serving in the army, he never received a degree.
- Bill Bartman, billionaire businessman, author. High school dropout.
- Count Basie, bandleader, pianist. Dropped out of high school.
- Shirley Bassey, singer, author. High school dropout.
- Eike Batista, billionaire mining executive. Studied matallurgy at the University of Aachen, Germany. Dropped out of college. Now one of the top 10 richest men in the world.
- Billy Beane, baseball player, general manager, and statistician. Turned down a scholarship to Stanford to play as a professional baseball player.
- Warren Beatty, Oscar-winning director, actor, producer, and screenwriter. Dropped out of Northwestern University after his freshman year to attend Stella Adler’s Conservatory of Acting. Beatty is one of the few people ever to receive Oscar nominations in the Best Picture, Actor, Directing and Writing categories from a single film (he did it twice for Heaven Can Wait and Reds).
- T. Bubba Bechtol, comedian and radio show host. Transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi his junior year but left soon thereafter. As he notes, “There was one course I was looking for that wasn’t in the curriculum catalog: How to Make Money. So I left.” Nonetheless, he was inducted into the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Hall of Fame in 2005.
- Boris Becker, tennis player. Did not complete high school or attend college.
- Kate Beckinsale, actress. Dropped out of Oxford University to pursue her acting career. Starred in Nothing But the Truth, Much Ado About Nothing, Snow Angels, Winged Creatures, Van Helsing, Whiteout, and the Underworld series.
- Natasha Bedingfield, singer. Dropped out of college after her freshman year to pursue a music career. Her Unwritten album debuted at #1 in England.
- Anne Beiler, multimillionaire co-founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels restaurants. High school dropout.
- Art Bell, radio talk-show host, author. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to join the U.S. Air Force.
- Jean-Paul Belmondo, actor. Did not do well in school. High school dropout.
- André Benjamin, aka André 3000, rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, member of OutKast. Dropped out of high school but later earned a high school equivalency degree.
- Jack Benny, actor, comedian, violinist. Dropped out of high school.
- Robert Bergman, portrait photographer. Dropped out of the University of Minnesota.
- Irving Berlin, Oscar-winning songwriter, composer. When his father died when he was 8 years old, he had to work to survive. Wrote such long-lasting hits as God Bless America, White Christmas, There’s No Business Like Show Business, etc.
- Carl Bernstein, Watergate reporter, Washington Post. Never finished college. Started as a copy boy at the Washington Star at the age of 16.
- Yogi Berra, baseball player, coach, and manager. Quit school in the eighth grade.
- Claude Berri, Oscar-winning French director, actor, screenwriter, and producer. High school dropout.
- Chuck Berry, rock singer. High school dropout, left in the 11th grade. Received high school equivalency degree at the age of 37. Attended cosmetology school for awhile when yournger.
- Halle Berry, Oscar-winning actress. After high school, she moved to Chicago to pursue a career in modeling. Did not attend college.
- Luc Besson, French director, screenwriter, and producer. Dropped out of high school. Never attended college.
- Jessica Biel, actress. Did not graduate from college. In an interview in Glamour magazine, she said that leaving college was one the toughest choices she ever made: “I do still have a desire, a pang in my heart, when I think about it and the fact that I didn’t spend my four years with my friends.”
- Joey Bishop, actor, comedian. Never finished high school.
- William Bishop, actor. Enrolled at West Virginia University but got involved in summer theater and left college to tour with a Tobacco Road theater production. Later went to Hollywood and signed an MGM contract.
- Robert Bisson, founder, EarthWater Global. Had about four years of college spread over seven universities, but he never earned an undergraduate degree.
- Clint Black, Grammy-winning country singer, songwriter, record producer, actor. Dropped out of Stratford High School in Houston, Texas to play in his brother’s band.
- Karen Black, actress, screenwriter, producer, singer, songwriter. Left high school to get married. Soon divorced and entered Northwestern University at the age of 16. Left college at 17 to pursue an acting career in New York City.
- Norman Blake, guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Did not finish high school.
- William Blake, poet, artist. Never attended school, educated at home by his mother.
- Mary J. Blige, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, record producer, actress. Dropped out of high school.
- Timonthy Blixseth, billionaire founder of Yellowstone Club. Skipped college, failed as a professional songwriter. Made his first fortune as a timberland investor. At the age of 15, he bought 3 donkeys for $75 and resold them a week later as pack mules.
- Orlando Bloom, actor, Left high school at the age of 16 to study acting. Later won a scholarship to the British American Dramatic Academy.
- Humphrey Bogart, Oscar-winning actor. Dropped out of high school.
- Peter Bogdanovich, director, screenwriter, actor, author. High school dropout. Began studying acting with Stella Adler when he was only 16.
- Michael Bolton, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter. High school dropout.
- William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, aka Henry McCarty, outlaw legend. Orphaned as a teenager, he never finished high school.
- Cher Bono, singer, Oscar-winning actress. Dropped out of high school.
- Sonny Bono, singer, actor, songwriter, U.S. congressman. Dropped out of high school.
- Daniel Boone, explorer, frontier leader. Home schooled.
- Bjorn Borg, tennis player. Joined the professional tennis circuit when he was 14. Never finished high school or attended college.
- Clara Bow, actress. Dropped out of college to become an actress.
- David Bowie, singer, songwriter, actor, record producer. Sold 136 million records. May not have graduated from high school. Did not attend college.
- Ray Bradbury, science fiction author. Never went to college. “I never went to college. I went to the library.”
- Stan Brakhage, experimental filmmaker. Dropped out of Dartmouth College after a few months to make films.
- Russell Brand, comedian and actor. After high school, he attended two drama schools in London but got kicked out of both of them.
- Marlon Brando Jr., Oscar-winning actor. Expelled from Libertyville High School for riding his motorcycle through the school. Later attended Shattuck Military Academy but was also expelled from there. Was invited to come back, but he decided not to finish school.
- Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Music, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and other Virgin enterprises, balloonist. Left high school when he was 16.
- Ralph Braun, founder of BraunAbility, inventor of battery-powered scooters and wheelchair lifts. Attended college at Indiana State for a year, but dropped out.
- Jacques Brel, Belgium singer, songwriter, actor, and director. Did not finish high school. Never attended college.
- Sergey Brin, billionaire co-founder of Google. Dropped out of Stanford Ph.D. program in computer science to start Google in 1998 working out of a friend’s garage. He did earn a masters degree.
- Christie Brinkley, aka Christie Lee Hudson, model, actress, political activist. After graduating from high school in Los Angeles, she moved to the Left Bank of Paris, France.
Joseph Brodsky, Nobel prize-winning Russian poet and essayist, Poet Laureate of the U.S. from 1991 to 1992. Left school at the age of 15 and tried to enter the School of Submariners, but was not accepted.
- Edgar Bronfman Jr., billionaire heir to the Seagram liquor fortune. Skipped college to pursue a career as a songwriter and movie producer, but soon began running the Seagram corporation.
- Charles Bronson, actor. He was 10 when his father died, and he went to work in the coal mines to help support the family.
- Gary Brooker, singer, songwriter, founder of Procol Harum rock band. Did not finish high school.
- Louise Brooks, actress, dancer, model, showgirl. Began dancing at the age of 16. Never finished high school.
- Pierce Brosnan, actor. He left school in England at the age of 15 to draw and paint. He also did odd jobs like washing dishes, cleaning houses, and driving a cab. But, as he noted, “Once I found the world of theater, I was off to the races!”
- Herbert Brown, Nobel Prize-winning chemist. Dropped out of high school to support his family. Later return to school and graduated from high school and college.
James Joseph Brown, mining engineer, husband of Unsinkable Molly Brown. Self-educated.
- Margaret “Molly” Brown, socialite, philanthropist, social activist, survivor of the Titanic. High school dropout.
V. V. Brown, singer. After attending a top-line prep school, she left England at the age of 18 to got to Los Angeles to make an album. Later returned to England but never went to college.
- Carla Bruni, folk singer, songwriter, model, and first lady of France. After graduating from high school, she went to Paris to study art and architecture, but left school at the age of 19 to pursue modeling.
- Joy Bryant, model, singer, surfer, snowboarder. Dropped out of Yale University to become a Victoria’s Secret model and, later, the face of CoverGirl.
- Peter Buffett, musician, author, son of Warren Buffett. Dropped out of Stanford University to make music. “When I turned 19, I received my inheritance. … My inheritance came to me around the time I was finally committing to the pursuit of a career in music. … I decided to leave Stanford and use my inheritance to buy the time it would take to figure out if I could make a go of it in music.”
- Warren Buffett, billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania after two years. But later he did get his bachelor’s degree and MBA.
- Gisele Caroline Bündchen, Brazilian multimillionaire supermodel. High school dropout. Left home at the age of 14 to begin her modeling career. Moved to New York City at the age of 16 to continue her career as a model. “Reading things is so important to me—things that can open up your mind. You need to feed your mind.”
- Ronald Burkle, billionaire supermarket owner and investor, Yucaipa. Dropped out of California State Polytechnic University and returned home to work in a Stater Brothers grocery store. Had started early stocking shelves; joined union local as a box boy at age 13.
- Abner Burnett, singer, guitarist. High school dropout who later earned an equivalency diploma.
- George Burns, Oscar-winning actor, comedian. Elementary school dropout.
- Pete Burns, singer, songwriter, member of Dead or Alive rock band, reality TV star. Elementary school dropout.
- Ellen Burnstyn, Oscar-winning actress. Dropped out of high school.
- Raymond Burr, actor. Dropped out of high school.
- Terry Butters, singer, pianist. High school dropout.
- Robert Byrd, U.S. senator. Graduated from high school but could not afford to attend college.
- David Byrne, singer and songwriter, member of Talking Heads rock band. Dropped out of the Rhode Island School of Design after one year to form the Talking Heads. He also attend the Maryland Institute College of Art for one year only.
- James Francis Byrnes, U.S. representative, U.S. senator, Supreme Court justice, U.S. secretary of state, South Carolina governor. At the age of 14, he left St. Patrick’s Catholic school to apprentice in a law office. Never attended college or law school.
- James Cagney, actor, song-and-dance man. Worked from the age of 14 as an office boy, janitor, package wrapper, and finally vaudeville dancer.
- Sam Cahnmy , Oscar-winning songwriter. Dropped out of high school.
- Michael Caine, Oscar-winning actor. Dropped out of high school.
- James Cameron, Oscar-winning director, producer, and screenwriter. Dropped out of California State University, Fullerton. Then took up street racing while working as a truck driver and a high school janitor, eventually getting a job building models for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.
- Ben Nighthorse Campbell, U.S. representative and senator. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to join the U.S. Air Force, where he earned his GED. Later attended and graduated from San Jose State College.
- Glen Campbell, singer, songwriter, actor. Dropped out of high school.
- Jack Cardiff, cinematographer. His formal education was spotty because his family moved every week or so. He started in the movie business as a gofer and later graduated to camera work.
- George Carlin, comedian, author 4-time Grammy winner. Never finished high school. As he noted, “The fact that I didn’t finish school left me with a lifelong need to prove that I’m smart.” He also noted, “When you’re a dropout and the culture accepts you and begins to quote you and teach your stuff in class and textbooks, this is my honorary baccalaureate.”
- Kitty Carlisle, actress, panelist on To Tell the Truth. “I went to boarding schools in Lausanne. And then I went to school in Neuilly. I stopped school when I was about 16. I went to Rome to come out. I never got any degrees or anything, but I am better educated than people who went to college.”
- John Carmack, founder of Armadillo Aerospace, cofounder of Id Software (sold 10 million copies of Dome and Quake games). At the age of 14, he was sent to a juvenile home after breaking into a school to steal an Apple II computer. Quit college early to become a game programmer.
- Andrew Carnegie, industrialist and philanthropist. Elementary school dropout. Started work at the age of 13 as a bobbin boy in a textile mill. One of the first mega-billionaires in the U.S.
- Scott Carpenter, astronaut. He twice flunked out of the University of Colorado.
- Jim Carrey, actor, comedian. Dropped out of high school.
- Adam Carolla, comedian, radio/TV personality, podcast superstar. “He was a wrong-side-of-the-tracks North Hollywood high-school graduate who could barely read and who worked a series of menial jobs before breaking into radio and then TV” (Fast Company). Did not attend college.
- Julia Carson, U.S. congress representative, did not graduate from college. She was the first woman and first African American to represent Indianapolis.
- Amon G. Carter, multimillionaire oilman, civic promoter, newspaper publisher, Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Never finished eighth grade.
- Maverick Carter, CEO of LRMR. Didn’t finish his sports management degree at Western Michigan University. Instead, he apprenticed for a year and a half under a basketball senior director.
- Tom Carvel, inventor of the soft-serve ice cream machine, founder of Carvel ice cream stores. Did not attend college. Before he began selling ice cream, he was an auto mechanic, Dixieland band drummer, and test driver for Studebaker.
- Pete Cashmore, founder of Mashable.com. Founded the blog website when he was 19. Retired from active blogging three years later.
- John Catsimatidis, billionaire oilman and real estate magnate. Studied engineering at NYU but dropped out to help a friend save his family’s supermarket business. Owned 10 stores of his own by the age of 24 with $25 million per year in income. During college, he “did not study much. Would not tell my kids that.”
- Bruce Catton, historian, editor of American Heritage, author. World War I interrupted his studies at Oberlin College. He tried twice after the war to finish college but kept getting pulled away by real jobs at a succession of newspapers.
- John Chancellor, TV journalist and anchorman. Dropped out of high school.
Coco Chanel (Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel) fashion designer. Left the orphanage at the age of 18 to pursue a career as a cabaret singer.
- Charles Chaplin, Oscar-winning actor, screenwriter, producer, director. Dropped out of elementary school.
- Ray Charles, singer, pianist. Dropped out of high school.
- Dov Charney, founder of American Apparel. Started the company when he was a high school senior. Never attended college.
- Gurbaksh Chahal, multimillionaire founder of online ad networks Click Again and BlueLithium. Dropped out of school at the age of 16 to found Click Again.
- Maurice Chevalier, Oscar-winning actor, singer. Dropped out of high school.
- Chingy, aka Howard Bailey Jr., rapper. Began writing lyrics at the age of 9 and recording raps when he was 10. Never attended college.
- Madonna Ciccone, singer, actress. Dropped out of the University of Michigan, where she was studying dance, to move to New York to pursue a singing career.
Grover Cleveland, U.S. president (22nd and 24th). Never attended college. Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
- Lee Clow, global director of media arts, TBWA\Worldwide. A college dropout.
- Winston Churchill, British prime minister, historian, artist. Rebellious by nature, he generally did poorly in school. Flunked sixth grade. After he left Harrow, he applied to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, but it took him three times before he passed the entrance exam. He graduated 8th out of a class of 150 a year and a half later. He never attended college.
- Joe Cirulli, founder of GHFC, a multimillion dollar fitness club company. After two years at Corning Community College, he decided to take a year off and travel around the country. Ended up following his girlfriend to Gainesville, Florida, where he started his live in health and fitness.
- James H. Clark, billionaire founder of Silicon Graphics and co-founder of Netscape. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and entered the Navy. Later took night classes and attended the University of New Orleans, where he earned a Master’s degree in physics. He eventually earned a PhD in computer science from the University of Utah.
- Kelly Clarkson, pop singer. Got several college music scholarships but passed on them to move to Los Angeles to pursue a singing career.
- Grover Cleveland, U.S. president. Dropped out of school to help his family. Studied law while clerking at a law firm.
- Eleanor Clift, reporter, Newsweek. No college degree. Went to night school for several years while working as a secretary.
- Hank Cochran, country singer and songwriter. Worked in the oil fields of New Mexico while still a teenager. Then moved to California to sing before moving to Nashville and building a career as a songwriter of such hits as “I Fall to Pieces,” “Make the World Go Away,” and “She’s Got You.” Never graduated from high school.
- Paulo Coelho, songwriter, bestselling novelist. Was institutionalized from age 17 to 20. He later enrolled in law school but dropped out after one year, became a hippie, traveled the world,and later worked as a songwriter before writing his first novel. His
novel The Alchemist has sold more than 60 million copies.
- Bram Cohen, developer of BitTorrent. He left the State University of New York at Buffalo for one year and then left. As he noted, “Were I to have to redo high school, I would just drop out immediately.”
- Taylor Cole, actress and model. Started modeling after graduating from high school.
- Toni Collette, actress. Quit high school at the age of 16 to study musical theater at Australia’s National Institute for Dramatic Art, but then left school there after she got her first paying gigs.
- Patrick Collison, software wizard. Dropped out of MIT during his freshman year to help two friends develop and eventually sell Auctomatic for millions of dollars.
- Christopher Columbus, explorer, discover of America. Little formal education. Home schooled.
- Christine Comaford-Lynch, founder of Artemis Ventures (venture capital firm) and Mighty Ventures. Dropped out of high school. Later also dropped out of the University of California at San Diego and UCLA. Dabbled as a model, trained as a geisha, spent years as a Buddhist monk, dated Bill Gates and Larry Ellison. She is the author of Rules of Renegades.
- Sean John Combs, rapper, producer, fashion designer, entertainer, actor, and entrepreneur. Did not finish college. As he said in an interview in Time magazine, “I’m just not that type of person. As soon as I got out of the womb, I was ready to do this. Then there’s other times—I’m not really high-tech computer savvy, and there’s some things that I do have weaknesses with. I don’t know if school would have made that better for me. I’m cool the way I’ve turned out.”
- Sean Connery, Oscar-winning actor. Dropped out of high school.
- Harry Connick, Jr., Grammy-winning pianist, singer, actor. Has sold over 25 million albums. At the age of 18, he left New Orleans to move to New York City. Did study at Loyola University, Hunter College, and the Manhattan School of Music, but apparently did not graduate.
- Kevin Connolly, actor. Skipped college, moved to Los Angeles to live with a bunch of unemployed actors, and finally had success as an actor in Entourage.
- Lauren Conrad, reality show actress, bestselling novelist, fashion designer. Moved to Los Angeles fresh out of high school to pursue acting. Never attended college.
- Jackie Coogan, actor. Flunked out of Santa Clara University and transferred to the University of Southern California, but never graduated.
- Jack Kent Cooke, billionaire media mogul, owner of Washington Redskins football team. Dropped out of high school.
- James Fenimore Cooper, novelist. Was kicked out of college for a prank.
- Noel Coward, Oscar-winning actor, playwright, director, producer, composer. Dropped out of elementary school.
- Simon Cowell, TV producer, music judge, American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent, and The X Factor. A member of Forbes 2008 Celebrity 100, he made $72 million in 2007. He dropped out of school at the age of 16.
- James M. Cox, newspaper publisher, 3-term governor of Ohio, presidential nominee in 1920, founded Cox Enterprises. A high school dropout.
- Gerard Craft, restaurateur. Dropped out of culinary school, saying “I never did well in the classroom—I got bored.” Then worked at a car wash and pool hall.
- Cindy Crawford, actress, model, entrepreneur. Graduated high school as the valedictorian. Then studied chemical engineering at Northwestern University for half a year before dropping out to model.
- Joan Crawford, Oscar-winning actress, dancer. Dropped out of high school.
- Davy Crockett, frontiersman, U.S. congressman. Less than six months of formal education. Home schooled.
- Tom Cruise, actor, producer. Never attended college.
- Roy Cullen, oilman billionaire. Dropped out of fifth grade.
- Robert Culp, actor. Bounced around 4 colleges before dropping out and moving to New York to study acting and pursue an acting career.
- Charles Culpeper, multimillionaire owner and CEO of Coca Cola. Dropped out of high school
- Claire Danes, actress. Left Yale after two years to return to acting, but did say that “College was just so essential for my sense of self and my development.”
- Sharon Daniels, author, The World of Truth. “Eventually I came to conclude that I could not find real knowledge in academic life, only hierarchies of knowledge that led, ultimately, to more hierarchies, not to more knowledge. I began to see university learning as limited, human, and relative. What was seen as absolutely up-to-date did not consider the infinite and timeless.”
- Fred N. Davis III, political advertising copywriter and director. Attended drama school in college but never graduated. Left school to take over his family’s PR business in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
- Sammy Davis, Jr., singer, actor, comedian. Never finished high school.
- Rosario Dawson, actress and political activist. Did not graduate from college, but she did take precalculus and calculus at the Cooper Union and a civil-engineering course at Columbia. She is a firm believer in the value of education.
- Dorothy Day, journalist, socialist, political activist, pacifist, anarchist, suffragist. Co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a scholarship, but dropped out after two years to move to New York City to become a social activist.
- James Dean, actor. Attended Santa Monica College but transferred to UCLA where he dropped out during his sophomore year to pursue a career as an actor.
- Jimmy Dean, singer, songwriter, actor, multimillionaire founder of Jimmy Dean Foods. Dropped out of high school to join the Merchant Marines at the age of 16. Later joined the Air Force at the age of 18.
- Ellen DeGeneres, comedienne, actress, talk show host. Dropped out of the University of New Orleans. As he noted in an interview with Us Magazine, “I didn’t go to no college.”
- John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems hair care products and founder of Patron Spirits tequilla. Joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school. After the Navy, he spent time doing many odd jobs, sometimes living out of a car, before finding an entry-level marketing job with Time magazine.
- Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, billionaire, among top ten wealthiest Americans. Founded his company out of his college dorm room. Dropped out of the University of Texas to run the company.
- Dom DeLuise, comedian, actor. Graduated from high school, but never attended college. Instead, he began acting at the Cleveland Play House.
- Patrick Demarchelier, fashion photographer. His stepfather gave him a Kodak camera when he was 17. He started working at a photography store right away and never attended college.
- Patrick Dempsey, actor, Dr. McDreamy, juggler, race car driver. Left Maine when he was 17 for a stage-acting career.
- Robert De Niro, Oscar-winning actor, producer. Dropped out of high school.
- Felix Dennis, multimillionaire magazine publisher, Maxim, Blender, and others. Left home before his sixteenth birthday and dropped out of art college.
The bottom line is that if I did it, you can do it. I got rich without the benefit of a college education or a penny of capital but making many errors along the way. I went from being a pauper, a hippie dropout on the dole, living in a crummy room without the proverbial pot to piss in, without even the money to pay the rent, without a clue as to what to do next… to being rich. — Felix Dennis, magazine publisher, How to Get Rich
- Gerard Depardieu, actor. Dropped out of elementary school.
- Richard Desmond, billionaire publisher. Dropped out of high school.
- Richard DeVos, billionaire co-founder of Amway (now Alticor), owner of Orlando Magic basketball team. Served in the Army after high school. Founded Amway along with his best friend Jay Van Andel.
- Maria Diaz, CEO and founder of Pursuit of Excellence. Dropped out of college as a recent widow to work three jobs and care for her son. Later worked for Jenny Craig. Then set up a coaching practice that led to founding Pursuit of Excellence.
- Leonardo DiCaprio, actor. At the age of 14, he signed with an agent and began doing commercial work as well as acting. He complete high school with a tutor, but put off college. As he has noted, “Life is my college now.”
- Charles Dickens, bestselling novelist. Elementary school dropout.
- Bo Diddley (Ellas Otha Bates), rock & roll singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Never attended college.
- Barry Diller, billionaire, Hollywood mogul, Internet maven, chairman of IAC/InterActive Corp (owner of Ask.com, Ticketmaster, CitySearch, Evite, LendingTree.com, etc.). The son of a wealthy real estate developer, he attended Beverly Hills High School but dropped out of UCLA to work in the mail room of William Morris.
- Joe DiMaggio, baseball player, husband of Marilyn Monroe. High school dropout.
- Walt Disney, producer, director, screenwriter, animator, developer of Disneyland. Winner of 26 Oscars and 7 Emmy awards. While attending McKinley High School, he also took night classes at the Chicago Art Institute. He dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to join the army. Rejected because he was under aged, he joined the Red Cross and was sent to war in Europe. Upon his return from war, he began his artistic career.
- Snoop Dogg, rapper and actor. Never attended college. “A lot of people like to fool you and say that you’re not smart if you never went to college, but common sense rules over everything. That’s what I learned from selling crack.”
- Thomas Dolby, musician, composer, music producer. Dropped out of high school.
- Robert Downey, Jr., actor. Dropped out of Santa Monica High School during his sophomore year.
- Betsy Drake, actress, novelist. Dropped out of high school to model and act. Much later in life, she enrolled at Harvard where she earned a master’s degree of education in psychology.
- Francis Drake, British admiral and explorer. Home schooled.
- Dominique Dunne, actress. Went to the University of Colorado to study acting, leaving after one year to pursue her career as an actress.
- Eliza Dushku, actress. Moved from Boston to Los Angeles at the age of 17 to act.
- Tom Dwan, millionaire online poker player. Dropped out of Boston University. He started with a $50 investment and built it into millions playing poker online.
- Johnny Earle, founder of Johnny Cupcakes. Dropped out of music school to sell limited-edition T-shirts out of the trunk of his ’89 Camry.
- Steve Earle, singer, songwriter, actor, playwright. At 16, he dropped out of college to become a songwriter.
- George Eastman, multimillionaire inventor and founder of Kodak. High school dropout.
- Clint Eastwood, Oscar-winning actor, director, and producer. Attended at least half a dozen schools and excelled at none of them. Enrolled at Los Angeles City College, but never graduated. Among other jobs, he bagged groceries, delivered papers, fought forest fires, and dug swimming pools. Also worked as a steelworker and logger.
Mark Ecko, founder urbanwear company Mark Ecko Enterprises. Left Rutgers University during his third year to start his company with his sister, Marci, who also left college to work on the business.
- Thomas Edison, multimillionaire inventor of the phonograph, light bulb, and many other inventions. He quit formal schooling after his teacher called him addled. Was home-schooled by his mother.
- Don Edwards, cowboy singer. Never finished high school.
- Zac Efron, actor, singer. Has not attended college, but also has not ruled out more study.
- William Eggleston, photographic artist. A major retrospective of his work opened in November, 2008, at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He attended Vanderbilt and the University of Mississippi without graduating. At Ole Miss, he did study painting which eventually led to his interest in artistic photography.
- Duke Ellington, bandleader, composer. Dropped out of high school.
- Larry Ellison, billionaire co-founder of Oracle software company. Dropped out of the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois.
- Queen Elizabeth II, queen of England. Tutored at the palace. Did not attend school.
- Philip Emeagwali, supercomputer scientist. High school dropout: left school in native Nigeria due to war but later earned an equivalency degree. Won a scholarship to Oregon College of Education but transferred after one year to Oregon State University.
- Eminem, rapper. Has a limited formal education, but “by the time I was 18 I had probably read the dictionary front to back like 10 times.”
Israel Englander, billionaire hedge fund manager, Millennium Partners. Dropped out of NYU’s MBA program to work as a floor manager at the American Stock Exchange.
- Tom Epperson, novelist and screenwriter. After taking some classes at Henderson State University in Arkansas, he dropped out and headed for New York City to become a novelist. Four years later, he headed to Los Angeles to write screenplays.
- Shawn Fanning, developer of Napster. Dropped out of Northeastern University when 19 to move to Silicon Valley to further develop Napster.
- William Faulkner, Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning novelist. Dropped out of high school after his second year. Also later attended but dropped out of the University of Mississippi.
- Perry Farrell (Peretz Bernstein), musician, Jane’s Addiction, Porno for Pyros, and Satellite Party. Also producer and founder of the Lollapalooza music tour. Never attended college.
- Arash Ferdowsi, cofounder, DropBox.com. Dropped out of MIT to start up DropBox.com.
- Craig Ferguson, late night talk show host. As he noted recently, “Economists are saying that a college degree may not be necessary to succeed in life. Look at me, I didn’t go to college and here I am. Seriously kids, go to college.”
- Mel Ferrer, actor, director, producer, husband of Audrey Hepburn. Dropped out of Princeton to get into acting.
- Sally Field, Oscar-winning and Emmy-winning actress. Never attended college.
- Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies. Founded the company when she was a 21-year-old mother with no business experience. Did not graduate from college.
50 Cent, rapper. Did not attend college. As he noted, “If I had a choice, I would’ve been a college kid. I would’ve majored in business.”
- Millard Fillmore, U.S. president. Six months of formal schooling. Studied law while a legal clerk for a judge and law firm. Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
- David Filo, billionaire co-founder of Yahoo! Dropped out of Stanford University PhD program to create Yahoo!
- Carly Fiorina, CEO, Hewlett-Packard. Disappointed her parents by dropping out of law school after one semester.
- Bobby Fischer, Grandmaster chess player. A high school dropout.
- Eddie Fisher, singer and actor. Never attended college. Began his singing career while still in high school.
- Ella Fitzgerald, singer. Dropped out of high school.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, novelist. Dropped out of Princeton University.
- Sean Flynn, actor, photojournalist. Son of Errol Flynn, Sean left Duke University after his freshman year to star in The Son of Captain Blood. He later became a famous photojournalist covering the Vietnam War where he apparently died (MIA and still unaccounted for).
- Harrison Ford, actor. Dropped out of Ripon College. He worked as a carpenter for almost ten years before finding success as an actor in Star Wars and other movies.
- Henry Ford, billionaire founder of Ford Motor Company. Received only a modest rural education. Left his home on the farm to work as an apprentice machinist in Detroit, Michigan. Later ran a sawmill and became a chief engineer for Edison Illuminating Company before starting the Ford Motor Company.
- Henry Ford II, CEO, Ford Motor Company. Dropped out of Yale University.
- George Foreman, heavyweight champion boxer, author, designer of the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine. Quit school in the ninth grade, but did get his GED. Never attended college.
- Charles Forman, founder of iminlikewithyou social networking website. Left home when he was 18 to work in Korea and Japan as a programmer.
- John Forsythe, actor. He won an athletic scholarship to the University of North Carolina but he left after three years to pursue a career in show business. He started out as an announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers and then, noting that he liked to eat in the winter, left to pursue acting.
- Sutton Foster, Tony award-winning actress, singer, and dancer. Attended Carnegie Mellon University for one year and then left to pursue a theatrical career full-time.
- Andrew Fox, Internet entrepreneur, multi-millionaire. A high school dropout.
- Megan Fox, actress. Tested out of high school via correspondence and moved to Los Angeles. Landed a role in a movie after only two months. Never attended college.
- Michael J. Fox, actor. Dropped out of high school. Co-starred in a Canadian television series at the age of 15. Left Canada at the age of 18 to go to Hollywood to pursue an acting career.
- Dick Francis, novelist, jockey. Never graduated from high school because his father, as noted by the London Times, felt “that a day’s hunting or show jumping was more valuable” than formal schooling.
- Aretha Franklin, singer. Dropped out of high school.
- Benjamin Franklin, inventor, scientist, inventor, diplomat, author, printer, publisher, politician, patriot, signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Dropped out of Boston Latin. Home schooled with less than two years of formal education.
Joe Frazier, heavyweight boxing champion. Never finished high school. Left home at the age of 15 to go to New York City.
- Markus Frind, software programmer, multimillionaire founder of Plenty of Fish dating website. Graduated from technical school with a two-year degree in computer programming. Did not attend any further higher education.
- Robert Frost, poet. Dropped out of Dartmouth College.
- R. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome, visionary, philosopher, poet, architect, futurist. He never finished college, after being expelled from Harvard twice (one involving some chorus girls).
- J. B. Fuqua, industrialist, philanthropist. Never attended college, but learned about business by checking out books from the Duke University library through the mail. Later donated $36 million to support a business school at Duke.
- Clark Gable, Oscar-winning actor. High school dropout.
- Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, rock singer and songwriter. Dropped out of NYU to pursue her music career full time.
- Melody Gardot, singer and songwriter. At the age of 19, while studying fashion at the Community College of Philadelphia, she was injured in a serious automobile accident that left her unable to continue college.
- Brad Garrett, actor, comedian. Left UCLA after six weeks to do standup comedy.
- Bill Gates, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, one of the richest men in the world, philanthropist. Dropped out of Harvard after his second year. As he noted, “I realized the error of my ways and decided I could make do with a high school diploma.”
- Richard Gere, Golden Globe-winning actor. Dropped out of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst after two years.
- David Geffen, billionaire founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of DreamWorks. Dropped out of the University of Texas at Austin after his freshman year. Also flunked out of Brooklyn College. Admittedly, “I was a lousy student.” Started work by sorting mail at the William Morris Agency.
- Alan Gerry, billionaire cable TV executive, philanthropist. Dropped out of high school during World War II to join the Marines. Trained as a TV repairman on the GI bill. Launched his cable business with $1,500 in 1956.
- George Gershwin, songwriter, composer. High school dropout.
- J. Paul Getty, billionaire oilman, once the richest man in the world. Failed to graduate from the University of Southern California, Berkley, or Oxford University.
- Amadeo Peter Giannini, multimillionaire founder of Bank of America. High school dropout.
- William Gibson, science fiction novelist, first to use the word cyberspace. Was orphaned at the age of 18. To avoid the draft and the war in Vietnam, he moved to Canada where he worked odd jobs. Years later he finally finished his first novel, Neuromancer. Never attended college.
- Daniel Gilbert, psychology professor at Harvard University. Dropped out of high school but later earned an equivalency diploma.
- Dizzy Gillespie, musician, songwriter. Dropped out of high school but later received an honorary diploma from the high school he attended.
- Jackie Gleason, actor and comedian. With 36 cents in his pocket, he left home after his mom died while he was still in his teens. He soon moved beyond amateur night shows and began working as a professional. He never finish high school.
- John Glenn, astronaut, U.S. senator. Did not finish at Muskingum College in Ohio. According to Wikipedia, “In April 1959, despite the fact that Glenn failed to earn the required college degree, he was assigned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as one of the original group of Mercury astronauts.”
- Whoopi Goldberg, Oscar-winning actress, comedienne, talk show host. Dropped out of high school after getting hooked on heroin. Got cleaned up at the age of 20. Worked as a bricklayer and trained as a beautician before hitting it big as a comedienne.
- Hyman Golden, multimillionaire cofounder of Snapple. A high school dropout and one-time window washer.
- Barry Goldwater, U.S. senator and presidential candidate. He dropped out of the University of Arizona after one year to take over the family department store.
- Benny Goodman, clarinetist, bandleader. Dropped out of high school.
- Bob Goodson, CEO, YouNoodle.com. Dropped out of Oxford University where he was studying for a master’s degree in medieval literature and philosophy.
- Alex Gordon, professional baseball player. “What would I do if I weren’t a ballplayer? I would have finished college. I went to Nebraska, and I’m good with animals, so being a veterinarian would have been cool. I looked into it in college, but I was so busy with baseball that I didn’t have time for it.”
- Lew Grade, producer. Dropped out of high school.
- Steffi Graf, tennis star. Turned professional in her teens when she ran out of players good enough to challenge her. Never attended college.
- Kelsey Grammar, actor. Attended Juilliard for two years but was kicked out for poor attendance. Went on to acting success in Cheers, Frasier, and Back to You television shows.
- Cary Grant, Oscar-winning actor. High school dropout. Left home at the age of 16 to become an acrobat and later an actor.
- W.T. Grant, multimillionaire founder of W.T. Grant department store chain. High school dropout.
- Horace Greeley, newspaper editor and publisher, U.S. congressman, presidential candidate, co-founder of the Republican Party. Dropped out of high school.
- David Green, billionaire founder of Hobby Lobby, religious philanthropist. Did not attend college. Started the Hobby Lobby chain with a $600 loan.
- Mart Green, multimillionaire founder of Mardel retail stores, CEO of Bearing Fruit Communications (aka EthnoGraphic Media), CEO and executive producer for Every Tribe Entertainment, chairman of the board of Oral Roberts University. Dropped out of college after one year. Founded Mardel at the age of 19.
- Philip Green, billionaire retail mogul, Topshop. Dropped out of high school to apprentice with a shoe importer.
- Arlo Guthrie, singer and songwriter. Dropped out of Rocky Mountain College.
- Gene Hackman, actor. Discharged after six years in the Marines, he entered college as a journalism major but after six months he dropped out for good. Since then he’s earned an Academy Award for best actor (The Conversation) and an Academy Award for best supporting actor (Unforgiven).
- Aviv Hadar, CEO of Think Brilliant web-development studio and the tech brains behind SoulPanckage. Dropped out of college.
- Thomas Haffa, billionaire German media mogul. Dropped out of high school.
- Joyce C. Hall, founder of Hallmark. Started selling greeting cards at the age of 18 while living at a YMCA in Kansas City. Did not attend college.
- Josh Halloway, actor. Did not attend college.
- Dorothy Hamill, Olympic ice skater. Did not attend college.
- Harold Hamm, billionaire oil wildcatter, Continental Resources, Hiland Holdings. Left home at the age of 17, finished school a year later. Became a gas jockey before becoming a wildcatter. Never attended college.
- Armie Hammer, actor, born into wealth. Did not graduate from
college: “I tried college at UCLA. I gave it a fighting effort and I just couldn’t do it.”
- Chelsea Handler, TV host, producer, comedienne, bestselling author. Moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to pursue a career as an actress.
- Tom Hanks, Oscar-winning actor. Dropped out of CalState University after a few years to work as an intern at the Great Lakes Theater Festival.
- William Hanna, cartoonist, Hanna-Barbera. He briefly attended college but dropped out at the beginning of the Great Depression.
- Beck Hansen, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist. Dropped out of high school to pursue his musical career.
- Elizabeth Hardwick, literary critic and co-founder of The New York Review of Books. Graduated from the University of Kentucky but dropped out of a Columbia University doctoral program.
- Martha Matilda Harper, business entrepreneur, founder of the Harper Hair Salons. At the age of seven, she was sent to work as a domestic servant. Worked as a servant for 22 years before saving enough money to start a hair salon. Never attended college.
- Melissa Joan Hart, actress, singer, director, producer, candy store operator. Started acting at the age of 3. Appeared in hundreds of commercials before getting the job of acting in the Sabrina TV show. Attended New York University for two years but deferred further studies when she got the TV show.
- Sheldon Harvey, Navajo artist, winner of the Best of Show at the 2008 Santa Fe Indian Market. Dropped out of high school to care for his wife and son. “When I dropped out of school, no one in my family thought it was the end of the world. My grandparents were from the old school, traditional people who didn’t think an education was necessary to make your way in the world.” He later convinced the people at Dine Community College to let him attend even though he had not graduated from high school. He took classes there but apparently did not graduate.
- Anne Hathaway, actress, The Princess Diaries. Began acting professionally at the age of 16. Briefly attended Vassar and New York University, but has not graduated from either.
- Leif Hauge, inventor. Never finished college.
- Louise Hay, one of the bestselling authors in history and founder of Hay House. Of other famous women authors, Levine Breaking News has noted, “They did not change the spiritual landscape of America and several of its Western allies. They were not pregnant at 15 and they did not lack high-school diplomas.” Louise Hay did.
- Amber Heard, actress. Quit a Catholic high school during her junior year to move to Hollywood to become an actress. She quickly landed a small role in Friday Night Lights.
- William Randolph Hearst, newspaper publisher and movie producer, was thrown out of Harvard for poor grades (apparently due to heavy partying).
- Richard Heckmann, billionaire investor, CEO of U.S. Filter, founder of Heckmann Corporation. Went to college in Hawaii but did not graduate. “I went to Vietnam in ’65 and was assigned to the 33rd Air Rescue Squadron. When I came back in ’66, I wasn’t in any mood to go back to school. I got a job selling insurance.” He later attended the Harvard Business School small-company management program.
- Diane Hendricks, billionaire co-founder of ABC Supply, the largest supplier of roofing and siding materials to contractors. Never attended college.
- Kenneth Hendricks, billionaire co-founder of ABC Supply, the largest supplier of roofing and siding materials to contractors. Dropped out of high school, never attended college, and eventually joined the family roofing company.
- Kevin Hendricks, roofing store operator. Skipped college to go into the roofing business. His high school graduation present was $100, a nail bag, and a roofing hammer. Later, he turned a money-losing store into ABC Supply’s biggest profit center.
- Jimi Hendrix, rock ‘n roll guitarist. A high school dropout.
- Lance Henriksen, actor. He dropped out of the eighth grade and ran away from home. He barely learned to read. After a stint in the Navy, he did odd jobs such as picking fruit and shrimping. As he began acting, he taught himself to read.
- Patrick Henry, Virginia governor, revolutionary patriot. Home schooled. Later studied on his own and became a lawyer.
- John Henton, actor, comedian. Never finished at Ohio State University. “I never ended up going back to Ohio State. I just wanted to be a comedian, you know, and I was getting a good response.”
- Tony Hillerman, mystery novelist. In 1943, he dropped out of college to enter the army. He later returned to college to get his degree and also earn a master’s degree.
- Paris Hilton, model, realty show star, singer, professional celebrity, socialite, fashion designer. Expelled in her senior year from the Canterbury Boarding School for violating school rules. Later earned her GED. Never attended college.
- Cheryl Hines, actress and director. Never attended college. Had a short stint in beauty school.
- Stanley Ho, billionaire casino operator, King of Gambling. Dropped out of college.
- Lillian Hochberg, founder of Lillian Vernon catalog. Did not attend college. Started the catalog out of her home.
- Eric Hoffer, longshoreman, philosopher, and author. A self-educated philosopher, he was at various times a dishwasher, lumberjack, gold prospector, migrant farm worker, and longshoreman. He is author of The True Believer, Working and Thinking at the Waterfront, and Reflections on the Human Condition.
- Dustin Hoffman, two-time Oscar-winning actor. Enrolled at Santa Monica College, caught the acting bug after taking an acting class for an easy grade, then left after a year to join the Pasadena Playhouse.
- Ernest Holmes, founder of the Science of Mind churches and author of The Science of Mind, ended his formal schooling when he was fifteen.
- Katie Holmes, actress. Her acceptance letter for Columbia University came a week after she did the pilot for the Dawson’s Creek TV show. She spent the next six years acting in the TV series. She now admits that going to college as a celebrity would be very difficult. “But,” she says, “Maybe I could hire a cute professor to home-school me.”
- Odetta Holmes, the queen of American folk music, singer, songwriter, actress, and human rights activist. Studied music at night at the Los Angeles City College, but did not graduate.
- Dennis Hopper, actor. Did not attend college, but did study acting at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego and the Actors’ Studio in New York City. When people asked him what school he went to, he would reply “Warner Bros.”
- Vanessa Hudgens, actress and singer. Homeschooled during high school. Did not attend college. Homeschooling was great for her: “It was nice to stay away from all the drama. I’m not good with catty girls. I’m too laid-back.”
- John Hughes, director, producer, and screenwriter. Dropped out of Arizona State University in his junior year.
- D. L. Hughley, sales manager, actor, comedian. Never finished high school. He got his job as a sales manager by paying “a guy I knew at Cal State Long Beach $100 to tell personnel that I was just a few credits short of graduating from college.”
- H. Wayne Huizenga, billionaire founder of WMX garbage company, builder of Blockbuster video chain, owner of Miami Dolphins. Skipped college to join the Army. Later dropped out of Calvin College after three semesters. Started business in 1962 with a used garbage truck.
- Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, billionaire oilman. Only had a fifth grade education. Worked as a farmhand until he invested $50 in an Arkansas oil field.
- John Huston, Oscar-winning director, actor. High school dropout.
- Gary Hustwit, author and publisher, Incommunicado Press. Dropped out of San Diego State.
- Lauren Hutton, first supermodel, actress. Attended Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans while working at a bar. Met Steve McQueen and got into acting. Dropped out of college.
- Don Imus, national radio host, bestselling book author. Dropped out of college after a week.
- Julie Inouye, actress, singer, health care advocate. Dropped out of Chico State University after dancer Harold Lang told her that she should be in New York or Los Angeles (after he had heard her sing).
- Burl Ives, Oscar-winning actor, folk music singer. Dropped out of Eastern Illinois State Teachers College (now Eastern Illinois University) during his junior year. As he was sitting in an English class listening to a lecture on Beowolf, he realized he was wasting his time and walked out of the class and out of college.
- Andrew Jackson, U.S. president, general, attorney, judge, congressman. Orphaned at 14. Home schooled. By the age of 35 without formal education, he became a practicing attorney. Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
- Reggie Jackson, baseball player. Attended Arizona State University for two years before he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics.
- Jane Jacobs, author, political activist, urban planner. After high school, she worked at a variety of office jobs and as a freelance writer. She studied for two years at Columbia University’s extension school, but did not graduate.
- Micky Jagtiani, billionaire retailer, Landmark International. Flunked several exams and dropped out of accounting school in London. Started out cleaning hotel rooms and driving a taxi. Eventually started a retail business in the Middle East.
- T. D. Jakes, pastor, bestselling novelist. Dropped out of high school.
- Betty Mattas James, CEO, James Industry. Named the Slinky toy. Member of the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. She attended Pennsylvania State University but left when she married Richard James, who later invented the Slinky. More than 300 million Slinkies have been sold.
- Josh James, multimillionaire co-founder of Omniture. Dropped out of Brigham Young University during his final semester to co-found MyComputer.com, which became Omniture.
- Kevin James, aka Kevin George Knipfing, comedian and actor. Attended the State University of New York at Cortland but dropped out of college after his junior year (after taking a course in public speaking) to perform stand-up comedy.
- Brandon Jennings, basketball player. He was the first high school player to skip collage and jump straight into pro basketball in Europe.
- Peter Jennings, news anchor, ABC’s World News Tonight. Failed the 10th grade. Left high school at 16 to work as a bank teller. He later attributed his failure in high school to boredom and laziness.
- Chris Jericho, aka Chris Irvine, WWE world champion wrestler, actor, author, radio and TV host, rock musician. Never attended college.
- Steve Jobs, billionaire co-founder of Apple Computers and Pixar Animation; Disney’s largest shareholder. Dropped out of Reed College after six months and went to India before returning to Silicon Valley. As he said, “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and how college was going to help me figure it out.”
- Billy Joel, singer and songwriter. A high school dropout.
- John Johannesson, founder of Bauger Group fashion retailing group, finished Commercial College in Iceland (the equivalent of something between high school and junior college in the U.S.) and then launched a discount grocery with his father.
- Andrew Johnson, U.S. president, vice-president. Never attended college. Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
- Bruce Johnson, cosmetologist and owner of Avatar Salon & Wellness Spa. Dropped out of the University of Maryland 26 credits shy of an engineering degree to study cosmetology. “I wasn’t loving engineering. I was just doing it. … I don’t think I would have been as stimulated by a career in engineering. I wanted to be happy and successful,” he says. “You’re not supposed to leave college. It was a struggle. But my heart was in this.” Now his clients include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
- Kenny Johnson, founder of Dial-A-Waiter restaurant delivery service. Dropped out of Wichita State University.
- Alan Jones, founder of Check Into Cash, former CEO of Credit Bureau Services. Dropped out of Tennessee State University to work at his father’s credit agency.
- January Jones, model, actress. Left home three days after graduating from high school to go to New York to become a model. Later became an actress.
- John Paul Jones, patriot, navy admiral. Home schooled. Went to sea early.
- Henry J. Kaiser, multimillionaire founder of Kaiser Aluminum. High school dropout.
- Rob Kalin, founder of Esty (a website that helps artisans sell handmade crafts and clothing). Flunked out of high school, briefly enrolled in an art school, and then faked an MIT student ID so he could take classes on the sly. His professors were so impressed that they helped him get into NYU where he learned out to build a website. Founded Esty with two classmates.
- Jeffrey Kalmikoff, cofounder and chief creative officer of Treadless.com. Never graduated from college.
- Dean Kamen, multimillionaire inventor of the Segway. Dropped out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
- Ingvar Kamprad, billionaire founder of IKEA, one of the richest people in the world. A dyslexic, he never attended college. When he was 17, his father gave him a reward for succeeding in his studies. He used this money to establish what became IKEA. As a child, he peddled matches, Christmas decorations, fish, and other sundries via his bicycle.
- Garson Kanin, screenwriter, playwright, novelist, memoirist, director. A high school dropout.
- David Karp, founder of Tumblr. Dropped out of Bronx Science at the age of 15 to be homeschooled and work for his Davidville company. Did not attend college. At the age of 17, he moved to Japan and worked remotely for an American Internet company.
- Alex Karras, football player, actor. Never graduated from college. As he pointed out, “I never graduated college, but I was only there for two terms – Truman’s and Eisenhower’s.”
- Li Ka-Shing, billionaire, one of the wealthiest investors in Asia, plastics manufacturer, real estate investor. Had to leave school at the age of 15 to support his family after his father’s death.
- Byron Katie, spiritual leader and author. Dropped out of the University of Northern Arizona before the end of freshman year to get married.
- Ben Kaufman, 21-year-old serial entrepreneur, founder of Kluster (a virtual forum that allows consumers and businesses to collaborate on the design of products and services). Dropped out of college in his freshman year.
- Michael Keaton (Michael John Douglas) actor. Dropped out of Kent State University after two years.
- Toby Keith, country music singer. After high school, he joined his father to work in the oil fields. His biggest regret, though, is never having attended college.
- Brad Kelley, billionaire landowner. Never attended college.
- Kirk Kerkorian, billionaire investor and casino operator, owner of MGM movie studio, Mirage Resorts, and Mandalay Bay Resorts. An eighth-grade dropout who trained fighter pilots during World War II.
- Alicia Keys, singer and songwriter. Graduated from New York’s Professional Performing Arts School at age 16. She enrolled at Columbia University but dropped out after a semester to sign with Columbia Records.
- Jared Kim, founder of WeGame. Dropped out of the University of California at Berkeley halfway through the spring semester of his freshman year to devote himself full-time to starting the online gaming site WeGame.
- B.B. King, blues musician, songwriter, and legend. Never finished high school. “I have two laptops. I didn’t finish high school, so one is my tutor: I buy software on things I don’t know. I write music with the other.” (People magazine)
- Eartha Kitt, Emmy-winning actress, dancer, singer, author, and sex kitten. She dropped out of the High School of Performing Arts to take various odd jobs. Eventually landed a job with the Katherine Dunham dance troupe.
- Heidi Klum, German supermodel, actress, fashion designer, television producer, and host of Project Runway and Germany’s Next Topmodel. One of Forbe’s 2008 Celebrity 100, she makes $14 million per year. Became a model immediately after graduating from high school.
- Keira Knightley, actress. Did not attend college, but wishes she did.
- Allan Kornblum, author, poet, and publisher, Coffee House Press. Dropped out of New York University
- Bruce Kovner, billionaire hedge fund operator, founder of Caxton Associates, chairman of Julliard. Dropped out of a Ph.D. economics program at Harvard to drive a taxi in New York City.
- Jan Kramer, ice skater, actress, country singer. “The day I graduated from high school, I left for New York City,” where she began acting in All My Children. Soon after, she left for Los Angeles to pursue her acting career, get parts on 90210, Entourage, and Friday Night Lights before getting a role on One Tree Hill.
- Ray Kroc, multimillionaire founder of McDonald’s. High school dropout.
- Chad Kroeger, frontman for Nickelback rock group. In a Playboy magazine interview, he noted that “I didn’t go to school. I mean, after the eighth or ninth grade, I don’t remember going to school five days out of the week, ever.” He was a few credits short of
graduating from high school when he left school and took to the road.
- Stanley Kubrick, movie director and producer, screenwriter, photographer. His poor high school grades made it impossible to attend college. He did take some photography classes at CCNY but never graduated from any college.
- Mila Kunis, actress. She briefly attended college, but had an epiphany: “I decided I wasn’t going to take [my career] seriously and make my job who I am. I just want to be happy with my life.”
- Olga Kurylenko, model, actress, Bond girl. Began modeling at the age of 14 in Moscow, Russia. Soon moved to Paris, France for more modeling work. Then moved on into acting.
- James Lafferty, actor. Has not yet attended college. But he did note in an interview that if he weren’t an actor, he’d “be a junior in college.”
- Don LaFontaine, voice-over artist who narrated more than 350,000 commercials, thousands of TV promos, and more than 5,000 movie trailers. After graduating from high school and serving in the Army, he went into business as a voice-over artist. He never attended college.
- Peter La Haye, Sr., inventor of plastic replacement lenses for cataract patients, owner of La Haye Laboratories and Neoptx. Dropped out of high school.
- Frederick “Freddy” Laker, billionaire airline entrepreneur. Dropped out of high school.
- Sharmen Lane, millionaire mortgage wholesaler, life coach, motivational speaker. A high-school dropout.
- Cathy Lanier, Chief of Police of Washington, DC. A 14-year-old pregnant high school dropout.
- Angela Lansbury, Tony and Golden Globe award-winning actress. She was contracted by MGM while still a teenager and nominated for an Academy Award for her first film, Gaslight, in 1944. Her Broadway stage work earned her four Tony Awards in sixteen years for Mame, Dear World, Gypsy, and Sweeney Todd. But she never won an Emmy for her work on the Murder, She Wrote television series. She also won six Golden Globes and was nominated for 18 Emmys and 3 Academy Awards. She never
- Ring Lardner, sportswriter and short story writer. Began his career as a teenager writing for the South Bend Tribune. He continued writing for many other newspapers, eventually landing a nationally syndicated column for the Chicago Tribune.
- Albert Lasker, advertising pioneer, CEO of Lord & Thomas. After graduating from high school, he started at an advertising agency as an entry-level salesman.
- Tommy Lasorda, baseball manager. Dropped out of high school.
- Jillian Lauren, author. Quit New York University during her freshman year to become a party guest for a wealthy Singapore businessman. Went on to live in the harem of the prince of Brunei for a year-and-a-half. Wrote about her experiences.
- Ralph Lauren, billionaire fashion designer, founder of Polo. Left the City College of New York business school (Baruch College) to design ties for Beau Brummel. Launched Polo later that same year.
- Avril Lavigne, singer, songwriter, actress, fashion designer. Dropped out of high school.
- Peter Lawford, actor. Never finished high school.
- Mike Lazaridis, billionaire founder of Research in Motion. “Two months before I graduated from college, I answered a request for proposal from General Motors with a five-page pitch to develop a network computer control display system. They offered me a half-million dollar contract…. I went to the president of the university to get his permission to take a leave of absence. He tried to persuade me to finish out my year, but when I told him about the contract, he wished me the best of luck.” Since that time, he hasn’t had time to go back and finish.
- David Lean, Oscar-winning director. Dropped out of high school.
- Stan Lee, comics creator, Marvel Comics (Spiderman, The Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four). Started working when he was still in high school. Never attended college.
- Anna-Lou “Annie” Leibovitz, portrait photographer, cover photographer for Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone magazines. Attended the San Francisco Art Institute, but apparently did not graduate. As she has said, “I was very lucky, in working for these magazines, to learn by doing, but I always regretted not having a formal education. I had to teach myself.”
- Tia Leoni, actress. Dropped out of Sarah Lawrence College as a 20-year-old to model and act.
- James Leprino, billionaire, Leprino Foods. Joined family business at the age of 18. Turned business into the world’s largest mozzarella producer.
- Doris Lessing, novelist. At the age of 14, she chose to end her formal schooling. She then worked as a nanny, telephone operator, office worker, stenographer, and journalist. Her first novel was published when she was 31. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007.
- Jerry Lewis, comedian, actor, singer, humanitarian. High school dropout.
- Joe Lewis, billionaire businessman. Dropped out of high school.
- Juliette Lewis, actress, singer, musician. At the age of 14, she left her parents and went to live with actress Karen Black, a family friend. She then dropped out of high school.
- Rush Limbaugh, multi-millionaire media mogul, the most popular radio talk show host ever. bestselling book author. Dropped out of college after being required to take ballroom dancing.
- Abraham Lincoln, lawyer, U.S. president. Finished barely a year of formal schooling. He self-taught himself trigonometry (for his work as a surveyor) and read Blackstone on his own to become a lawyer. Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
- Charles Lindbergh, aviator, first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Quit the University of Wisconsin after two years to learn how to fly an airplane.
- Carl Lindner, billionaire investor, founder of United Dairy Farmers. Dropped out of high school at the age of 14 to deliver milk for the family store during the Depression.
- John Llewellyn, labor leader, president of the United Mine Workers. Dropped out of high school.
- Hank Locklin, country singer. Never attended college.
- Marcus Loew, multimillionaire founder of Loews movie theaters, co-founder of MGM movie studio. Dropped out of elementary school.
- Lindsay Lohan, actress. Never finished high school.
- Dan Lok, multi-millionaire business mentor, founder of Quick Turn Marketing. College dropout. His CreativitySucks website notes: A former college dropout, Dan Lok transformed himself from a grocery bagger in a local supermarket to a multi-millionaire. Dan came to North America with little knowledge of the English language and few contacts. Today, Dan is one of the most sought-after business mentors on the Web, as well as a best-selling author. His reputation includes his title as the World’s #1 Website Conversion Expert.
- Jack London, bestselling novelist. Dropped out of high school to work. Later was admitted to the University of California but left after one semester.
- Julie London, singer, actress. Dropped out of high school.
- Sophia Loren, Oscar-winning actress, author, model. Dropped out of elementary school.
- Joe Louis, boxer. Dropped out of high school.
- Nat Love, member of the National Cowboys of Color Hall of Fame, known as Deadwood Dick, one of the first American cowboys to write his autobiography. Born into slavery. After being emancipated, he won a horse in a raffle and headed west to become a cowboy.
- Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazilian president. With a fifth grade education only, he shined shoes on the streets of Sao Paulo as a kid but later became a steelworker union leader.
- Barbara Lynch, chef, owner of a $10 million group of restaurants in Boston. Dropped out of high school to be a runner for local bookies. Later worked for celebrity chef Todd English. “I started my first business venture in high school, placing bets for some of my teachers with bookies in Southie…. I never did homework. I was failing everything. Senior year, they said I would have to go to summer school. There was no way I was doing that, so I dropped out.”
- Mary Lyon, education pioneer, teacher, founder of Mount Holyoke College (America’s first women’s college). Dropped out of high school. Started teaching at the age of 17.
- Andie MacDowell, Golden Globe-winning actress and model. Dropped out of Winthrop College during her sophomore year.
- John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods and developer of Conscious Capitalism. Dropped out of the University of Texas six times. Never took a business course.
- Harry Macklowe, billionaire real estate developer. Dropped out of college to become a real estate broker.
- Steve Madden, shoe designer. Dropped out of college to sell shoes on Long Island.
- Ivory Madison, comic book author and founder of the Red Room social network for authors. Dropped out of school at the age of 13. Eventually went to law school without finishing high school or attending college.
- John Major, British prime minister. High school dropout.
- Howie Mandel, comedian, game show host. Was expelled from Toronto’s Northview Heights secondary school for practical jokes gone too far. Finally got his GED in 2010.
- Bruno Mars, singer, songwriter, music producer. After graduating from high school, he moved to Los Angeles and signed with Motown Records. He later wrote songs for other singers and release a bestselling record with Elektra.
- Clancy Martin, ethics professor, novelist. Dropped out of high school, but later graduated from college. Dropped out of graduate school.
- Dean Martin, singer, actor, comedian. Never finished high school.
- Steve Martin, comedian, actor. Dropped out of Long Beach State College. He became disillusioned upon reading Wittgenstein’s view that “all philosophical problems can be reduced to problems of semantics.”
- Manuel Marulanda, aka Pedro Antonio Marin, leader of the revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The son of a peasant farmer, he had only a sixth-grade education.
- Robert Maxwell, billionaire publisher. Dropped out of high school.
- John Mayer, Grammy-winning singer and songwriter. Left the Berklee College of Music after two semesters to pursue a singing career in Atlanta, Georgia. “I’ve already won one of the biggest gambles of all time, which was to forgo an education so I could pursue a real all-or-none scenario.”
- Martina McBride, country music singer. After high school, she traveled around Kansas playing and singing with various bands. Did not attend college.
- Craig McCaw, billionaire founder of McCaw Cellular. Dropped out of college.
- Billy Joe (Red) McCombs, billionaire founder of Clear Channel media empire, car dealerships, real estate investor. Dropped out of law school to sell cars in 1950. He owned his first automobile dealership by age 25.
- Malachy McCourt, actor, author. Dropped out of school at the age of 13.
- Gardner McKay, actor, novelist. Dropped out of Cornell University after two years.
- Rod McKuen, poet, songwriter. Elementary school dropout.
- Kenneth Wayne McLeod, Ponzi schemer. After graduating from high school, he went into the insurance business. Never attended college.
Leighton Meester, actress. Dropped out of high school after her junior year (but had enough credits to get her diploma). “I was very passionate about pursuing my acting career; as opposed to the daily routine of high school, which bored me to death. It was a chore – I wasn’t in any after-school clubs. The only thing I did after school was go to auditions.” (Seventeen magazine)
- Hendrik Meijer, founder of Meijer grocery stores. Worked as a barber during the depression. Did not attend college.
- Herman Melville, novelist, Moby Dick. High school dropout.
- Karl Menninger, psychiatrist. Dropped out of Washburn College in Kansas after two years.
- Daniel Merriweather, singer and songwriter. Dropped out of high school.
- Jillian Michaels, fitness expert, reality TV star, book author. She dropped out of California State University at Northridge to be a bartender. When her boyfriend suggested she get a real job, she faked a college diploma to get a position at the ICM talent agency.
- Liza Minnelli, Oscar-winning actress, singer. High school dropout.
- Hellen Mirren, Oscar-winning actress. Left home at the age of 17 to go to London to become a professional actress. Did not attend college.
- Robert Mitchum, actor. High school dropout.
- Moby, author, rock star, tea-shop proprietor. Sold more than 15 million albums. A college dropout.
- Claude Monet, painter. Elementary school dropout.
- Arthur Ernest Morgan, flood control engineer, book author, college president, director of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Left high school after three years. Later attended the University of Colorado for six weeks.
- Ed Morrisey, blogger at Captain’s Quarters and HotAir.com. “I never finished college. I attended three or four different colleges at different times for different reasons. I never did get a degree.”
- Chris Morrison, co-founder of PLP Digital Systems (software company). Earns more than $500,000 per year. Dropped out of high school.
- Matthew Morrison, actor and singer. Attended New York University for two years before landing a role in the Broadway production of Footloose.
- Dustin Moskovitz, billionaire co-founder of Facebook social network. Dropped out of Harvard.
- Kate Moss, multi-millionaire model. Attended a little bit of college, but never graduated.
- Charles Munger, billionaire right-hand man to Warren Buffett in Berkshire Hathaway. Dropped out of the University of Michigan to join the Air Force as a meteorologist. Later got a law degree from Harvard.
- David Murdock, billionaire investor, real estate tycoon, chairman of Dole Foods. Funding a $1.5 billion health research campus in North Carolina. Dropped out of high school. Drafted into the army in 1943.
- Justin Murdock, investor, son of David. A college dropout and goth musician.
- Ted Murphy, founder, Izea Entertainment, social media marketing company. Dropped out of Florida State University to start Think Creative ad agency.
- Bill Murray, Golden Globe-winning actor, comedian. Dropped out of Regis University after being arrested for possession of marijuana.
- George Naddaff, founder of Boston Chicken and UFood Grill. Never attended college. As he put it, “School and I did not work out. So at age 17 and a half, I joined the Army.” And, when he got out of the Army, his dad said if you’re not going to college, you get a job. He did. The next day.
- Walter Nash, prime minister of New Zealand. Dropped out of high school.
- Patricia Neal, actress. After two years as a drama major at Northwestern University, she dropped out and headed to New York City where she performed summer stock before becoming a Broadway star at the age of 20.
- David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue airlines. Dropped out of the University of Utah after three years.
- Jack Nelson, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Never attended college. After high school, he went to work for the Biloxi Daily Herald. Later he opened the Atlanta bureau of the Los Angeles Times and later became the Times bureau chief in Washington, D.C.
- Richard John Neuhaus, theologian, Lutheran minister, Catholic priest, author, civil rights activist. He took pride in the fact that he never graduated from high school.
- Donald Newhouse, billionaire publisher, Advanced Publications. Dropped out of Syracuse University.
- Jim Newton, founder of TechShop (the nation’s first full-service gym for the tinkering crowd), science advisor for Discovery Channel’s MythBusters series. Dropped out of college.
- Olivia Newton-John, singer, actress, author. Dropped out of high school.
- Jake Nickell, cofounder and CEO of Treadless.com. Never graduated from college.
- Florence Nightingale, nurse. No formal education. Home schooled.
- Rosie O’Donnell, comedienne, talk show host. Dropped out of Dickinson College and Boston University.
- George Alan O’Dowd, aka Boy George, singer, songwriter, fashion designer, photographer. High school dropout. Never attended college.
- David Ogilvy, advertising copywriter and executive. Was thrown out of Oxford University at the age of 20 in 1931 during the Great Depression. Began working as a lowly cook in a hotel restaurant. Eventually became a world-class chef. Left that job to sell upmarket kitchen stoves, which led to a job in advertising.
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. first lady, book editor. Dropped out of Vassar before eventually graduating from George Washington University.
- Yoko Ono, artist, singer. Dropped out of Sarah Lawrence College.
- David Oreck, multimillionaire founder of The Oreck Corporation that builds those wonderful vacuum cleaners. When the U.S. entered World War II, he quit college to enlist in the Army Air Corps. After the war, college seemed to tame to him, so he started working as a salesman at a Manhattan appliance distributor. That job eventually led him to founding his own company.
- Amancio Ortega, fashion retailer, Spain’s richest man, billionaire. Dropped out of high school.
- George Orwell (aka Eric Blair), author of Animal Farm and 1984. Instead of attending university after graduating from Eton, he joined the Imperial Police and worked in Burma. When he returned, he worked in restaurant kitchens, slept in homeless shelters, and eventually documented the condition of miners. All the time, he was writing reviews, essays, novels, and a regular newspaper column. His Animal Farm has sold more than 10 million copies.
- Joel Osteen, TV pastor and host of the most-watched inspirational TV show in the U.S. Dropped out of Oral Roberts University after one year to care for his mother (who was recovering from cancer). Has sold more than 4 million copies of Your Best Life Now.
- Dan Panoz, founder of Panoz Auto Development car design firm. Dropped out of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Gainesville College.
- Larry Page, billionaire co-founder of Google. Dropped out of Stanford Ph.D. program in computer science to start Google in 1998 working out of a friend’s garage. He did earn a masters degree.
- Sean Parker, billionaire co-creator of Napster, founding president of Facebook.com. He barely finished high school (he was not interested in school).
- Rosa Parks, civil rights pioneer. Dropped out of high school.
- Kevin Paul, founder of KPaul, an Inc. 500 company. Joined the army straight out of high school.
- Harvey Pekar, comic book author. Dropped out of Case Western Reserve University. His reason? He quit “when the pressure of required math classes proved too much to bear.”
- Nelson Peltz, billionaire leveraged buyout investor. Dropped out of Wharton Business School.
- Robin Wright Penn, actress. Never attended college. She was already modeling in high school and had a steady acting job at the age of 19 in the soap opera Santa Barbara.
- Pinetop Perkins, blues pianist. Left school after the third grade.
- Andrew Perlman, co-founder of GreatPoint. Dropped out of Washington University to start an Internet communications company, Cignal Global Communications, when he was 19.
- Katy Perry, singer. Left home at the age of 17 to make it on her own in Los Angeles. Did not attend college. Worked various crappy jobs and sank into debt until she signed a deal with Capitol Records and released her bestselling album, One of the Boys.
- John Pestana, multimillionaire co-founder of Omniture. Dropped out of Brigham Young University during his final semester to co-found MyComputer.com, which became Omniture.
- Phosphorescent, country singer. Left home at 18 to tour the Southwest. Lived out of his pickup for six months.
- Mary Pickford, Oscar-winning actress, co-founder of United Artists. Six months of formal education. Home schooled.
- James A. Pike, Episcopal bishop. Dropped out of the University of Santa Clara after his sophomore year.
- Brad Pitt, actor, left the University of Missouri two credits short of graduating so he could begin his acting career in California.
- Sidney Poitier, Oscar-winning actor. Only finished a few grades. Could only read at the fourth-grade level until a friend taught him how to read better when he was a struggling actor in New York City.
- Sydney Pollack, movie director, producer, and actor. Skipped college and enrolled at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where he studied under drama coach Sanford Meisner.
- Ron Popeil, multimillionaire founder of Ronco, inventor, infomercial pitchman, and producer. Dropped out of college. He did, though, receive the Ig Nobel Award for Consumer Engineering. Inventor of the Solid Flavor Injector, Mr. Microphone, Showtime Rotisserie, and more.
- Dean Potter, climber and slack-liner. Enrolled at the University of New Hampshire and joined the rowing team, but quit soon thereafter. “I didn’t fit in,” he has said. “I wanted to destroy everybody on my team and establish my dominance, and that’s all I cared about.”
- William J. Powell, developer and owner of the Clearview Golf Club, the first U.S. golf course designed, owned, and operated by an African American; also competed in the first U.S. interracial collegiate golf match. Left Wilberforce University early because he had an enlarged heart.
- Seth Priebatsch, chief ninja of scvngr.com and founder of PostcardTech. Dropped out of Princeton University after one year.
- Jeff Probst, host, Survivor TV show. Dropped out of college to pursue a career as a singer.
- Bob Proctor, success speaker, bestselling author of You Were Born Rich, teacher of The Secret, and co-founder of Life Success Publishing. Went to high school for two months.
- Wolfgang Puck, chef, owner of 16 restaurants and 80 express bistros. Quit school at the age of 14 and got a job as a cooking apprentice at a hotel. When he told his father, he said, “Well, you’re good for nothing. Cooking is for women.”
- David Putnam, Oscar-winning producer. Dropped out of high school.
- Dennis Quaid, actor. Dropped out of the University of Houston to pursue an acting career in Hollywood.
- Ashley Qualls, founder of Whateverlife.com, left high school at the age of 15 to devote full time to her website business where she made more than a million dollars by the age of 17.
- Anthony Quinn, Oscar-winning actor. Dropped out of high school.
- Daniel Radcliffe, actor. On being asked if he planned to go to college, he replied, “No, I don’t. I am continuing my education. I have two weekly tutorials with a friend of mine.”
- Stewart Rahr, billionaire founder of Kinray pharmacy distributor, philanthropist. Graduated from New York University but later dropped out of law school in 1975 to take over family pharmacy.
- Lew Ranieri, financier, the father of mortgage-backed bonds. Dropped out of college.
- James Arthur Ray, inspirational author and speaker. Dropped out of junior college to work as a telemarketer.
- Rachael Ray, TV chef, cookbook author. Dropped out of Pace University after two years to work and save money.
- Usher Raymond IV, quadruple platinum singer. He won the Star Search male teen vocalist competition when he was 18. He was signed to a music label immediately thereafter.
- Keanu Reeves, actor. Dropped out of high school to pursue acting.
- Kamilla Reid, book author. A high school dropout.
- Silvestre Reyes, U.S. representative from Texas. Got a two-year degree from El Paso Community College.
- Burt Reynolds, actor, number-one box-office attraction for five straight years (1978-82). Dropped out of Florida State University after football and automobile accident injuries ended his football career. Then took some classes at Palm Beach Junior College where an acting class where his teacher pushed Reynolds into acting.
- Dane Reynolds, world class surfer, video documentarian. Dropped out of school at the age of 16 to surf, something he called “kind of a stupid decision.”
- Trent Rezner, musician, Nine Inch Nails. Dropped out of Allegheny College after one year to pursue a career in music.
- Charlie Rich, Grammy-winning country and blues singer and songwriter. Dropped out of the University of Arkansas to join the Air Force.
- Marc Rich, billionaire commodities investor, built Philbro into the world’s largest commodities firm, founded Marc Rich & Co. Dropped out of NYU to take a job in the mail room of Philipp Brothers on Wall Street.
- Leandro Rizzuto, billionaire founder of Conair. Dropped out of college to found Conair with a $100 investment and the invention of a hot-air hair roller invention.
- Julia Roberts, actress. After high school, she headed to New York City where she pursued an acting career. Has never attended college.
- Pernell Roberts, actor (Bonanza and Trapper John). Attended Georgia Tech and the University of Maryland, but at both schools, as he noted, “I distinguished myself by flunking out.”
- Andrew Robl, millionaire online poker player. Started playing poker during high school but turned professional after the second semester of his freshman year at the University of Michigan.
- Chris Rock, comedian, actor. Dropped out of high school.
- John D. Rockefeller Sr., billionaire founder of Standard Oil, philanthropist. History’s first recorded billionaire. Dropped out of high school two months before graduation. Took some courses at a local business school.
- Seth Rogan, actor, comedian, and screenwriter. Dropped out of high school.
- Roy Rogers, aka Leonard Slye, singing cowboy, actor. Dropped out of high school. As he noted, I did pretty well “for a guy who never finished high school and used to yodel at square dances.”
- Will Rogers, humorist, author, actor, entertainer. High school dropout.
- Kjell Inge Rokke, billionaire Norwegian businessman. No secondary or college education. Started out as a fisherman at the age of 18.
- Ray Romano, actor, Everybody Loves Raymond. Went to college for seven years but never graduated. “I would get my student loans, get money, register and never really go. It was a system I thought would somehow pan out.”
- Rebecca Romijn, actress, model. Deferred her studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz to pursue a modeling career in Paris, France.
- George Romney, automotive executive, Michigan governor, presidential candidate. Spent only a year at the University of Utah.
- Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. president. Attended school only for a few months. Was tutored at home. Teddy eventually graduated from Harvard University but he did not complete his law degree at Columbia University.
- Kevin Rose, founder of Digg.com, TechTV host. Dropped out of the University of Las Vegas during his sophomore year to code software. He wrote his first software program in the second grade and was building his own machines by the beginning of high school. He started Digg with $1,200 and launched the site out of his bedroom.
- Alvin Roth, systems engineer, game theorist, book author. Dropped out of Van Buren High School (Queens, New York) during his junior year. His explanation: He was understimulated. Applied to college and graduated with an engineering degree from Columbia University and a doctorate in operations research from Stanford University.
- Asher Roth, hip hop artist, I Love College hit song. Dropped out of West Chester University after being signed.
- Karl Rove, presidential advisor. Left the University of Utah after two years to work for the college Republicans.
- J.K. Rowling, bestselling novelist (Harry Potter series), first billionaire author. Never attended college.
- Frederick Henry Royce, multimillionaire co-founder of Rolls-Royce, automotive designer. Elementary school dropout.
- Michael Rubin, founder of Global Sports. Dropped out of Villanova University after six months. He admits, “If I had to do it over again, I would have gone to college. I missed out on that. The business responsibilities weighted hard on me in my late teens and early 20s.”
- Phillip Ruffin, billionaire casino operator. Dropped out of Wichita State to flip burgers. With the money he saved, he invested in oil and real estate. Eventually got into casinos. The best day of his life? August 10, 2007. The day he put $1.24 billion into his checking account.
- Rene Russo, model, actress. After a year at Burroughs High School in Burbank, California, she dropped out. At the age of 17, she took a job inspecting lenses in an eyeglass factory, but was soon discovered by a model agent.
- Haim Saban, billionaire producer of Power Rangers TV show, owns stake in Univision and Paul Frank Industries. Never attended college.
- William Safire, columnist for the New York Times. Dropped out of Syracuse University to take a job as a researcher for a column.
- Edmond Safra, billionaire banker, philanthropist. High school dropout.
- J.D. Salinger, novelist, Catcher in the Rye (with over 60 million copies sold so far). Briefly attended Ursinus College and New York University before publishing short stories in Collier’s and Esquire.
- Carl Sandburg, poet, historian, Pulitzer Prize winner. Had little formal education but later attended Lombard College and graduated.
- Colonel Harlan Sanders, multimillionaire founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Elementary school dropout but later earned a law degree via correspondence course.
Sankaralingam, social and political reformer, founder Land for Tiller’s Freedom. A member of the high caste in India, he quit college to join Gandhi’s movement for India’s freedom.
- Jose Saramago, Nobel Prize-winning novelist. Graduated from trade
school and then studied literature mostly on his own.
- David Sarnoff, radio and TV producer. High school dropout.
- William Saroyan, Oscar-winning screenwriter, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. High school dropout.
- Vidal Sassoon, multimillionaire founder of Vidal Sassoon hairstyling salons and hair-care products. High school dropout.
- Al Schneider, founder of Schneider National freight company. Had an eighth-grade education.
- Richard Schulze, billionaire founder of Best Buy. After high school, he sold electronics for his father’s distribution company and later opened a car-stereo shop. Did not attend college.
- Ryan Seacrest, multimillionaire radio and TV host. He turned a high school internship at a local radio station into his own show. At 19, he dropped out of the University of Georgia and headed to Hollywood to build a career in radio and TV.
- Seal, aka Seal Henry Olusugun Olumide Adeola Samuel, R&B singer and songwriter. He received a two-year associate’s degree in architecture. He struck out on his own at the age of 15.
- Kesha Rose Sebert, singer and songwriter. Quit high school weeks before graduating and passed on a scholarship to Barnard College to go to Los Angeles to break into the music business.
- Kyra Sedgwick, actress. Briefly attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Southern California before dropping out to act full time.
- Tom Selleck, actor. Left USC three classes short of a degree to become a contract player for 20th Century Fox. “I started out at about $35 a week, so it was a pretty big risk to leave college to do that. But it’s like my dad always said: Risk is the price you pay for opportunity.”
- Doug Selsam, inventor of The Sky Serpent wind generator and heavy metal guitarist. Attended the University of California at Irvine, but never graduated.
- Drew Sementa, founder, Premier Payment Systems. Left the University of Central Florida after his junior year to join a dot-com.
William Shakespeare, playwright, poet. Only a few years of formal schooling.
- Shakira, singer and songwriter who has sold more than 50 million albums. Attended a modeling school for awhile. Never attended college, but founded Pies Descalzos to provide educational opportunities to thousands of Colombia’s poorest children and Barefoot, a nonprofit organization to provide schooling opportunities for millions of children around the world.
- Adam Shankman, dancer, choreographer, director, producer, reality show judge. Dropped out of Julliard to return to Los Angeles to pursue a choreography career.
- George Bernard Shaw, playwright, author. High school dropout.
- Martin Sheen (Ramon Gerard Estevez), actor. Never attended
college until he went for a few months in 2006.
- J. Earl Shoaff, the Millionaire Maker, never graduated from high school.
- Walter Shorenstein, billionaire real estate investor, Shorenstein Properties. Dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania. Began buying commercial property after serving in the military during World War II.
- Harper Simon, musician son of singer/songwriter Paul Simon. Enrolled at the Berklee College of Music but quit before graduating.
- Alan Sillitoe, novelist. He left school at the age of 14 to work in a bicycle plant.
- Russell Simmons, multi-millionaire co-founder of Def Jam records, founder Russell Simmons Music Group, creator of Phat Farm and Baby Phat fashions, foounding partner of UniRush Financial Services, creator of Global Grind website, bestselling author, movie and TV producer. Left City College of New York to begin promoting local rap music acts (which he eventually signed to his music label) and producing records.
- Maggy Simony, author of Traveler’s Reading Guide. Never attended college.
- John Simplot, billionaire potato king. Dropped out of 8th grade and left home at the age of 14. He sorted potatoes and raised hogs before saving enough money to buy his first potato field. Became a millionaire by the age of 30.
- Jessica Simpson, singer and actress. Left high school at the age of 16 to pursue a singing career. Later got her GED. Never attended college.
- Isaac Merrit Singer, sewing machine inventor, multimillionaire founder of Singer Industries. Dropped out of elementary school.
- Frank Sinatra, singer, Oscar-winning actor. Never finished high school.
- Christian Slater, actor. Dropped out of high school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting.
- Alfred E. Smith, governor of New York and presidential candidate. Left school at the age of 14 to help his family after his father died. He would later joke that he received his FFM degree from the Fulton Fish Market in New York City.
- Elinor Smith, aviatrix, the Flying Flapper. By the time she was 17, she was ferrying passengers on short hops from Roosevelt Field in Long Island. By 18, she had her own sight-seeing business. Never attended college.
- O. Bruton Smith, billionaire. “I didn’t attend college, but still had a good time. I think I probably had more fun than any human deserves a right to have.”
- Patti Smith, poet, visual artist, songwriter. Dropped out of teacher’s college to start life as an artist in New York City.
Walter L. Smith, president of Florida A&M University. Dropped out of high school but later earned an equivalency diploma at the age of 23.
- Will Smith, Grammy-winning rapper, actor. Did not attend college. As the Fresh Prince, he and DJ Jazzy Jeff released their first album before he finished high school. They received the first Grammy for a hip-hop act. Due to the success of that first album, Smith decided to forgo college for show business.
- Daniel Snyder, billionaire owner of Snyder Communications and Red Zone Capital, owner of the Washington Redskins. Dropped out of the University of Maryland.
- Kevin Sorbo, actor, director, producer, and model. Left Moorhead State University early to pursue a career in acting.
- James Spader, actor. Dropped out of high school. As he noted, “I left high school with the option of returning whenever I wanted. The high school was tremendously gracious in that way. They said, Any time you want to come back, we’ll welcome you. Maybe I should take them up on it. I’d probably make great use of it.”
- Britney Spears, singer, actress, youngest woman to have five albums debut at #1 on the Billboard list. Dropped out of high school.
- Jamie Lynn Spears, actress. Dropped out of high school.
- Steven Spielberg, billionaire movie director and producer, co-founder of DreamWorks. Rejected by the best film schools, he enrolled in and then dropped out of Cal State Long Beach. Received a degree in 2002.
- Rick Springfield, singer and actor. Never attended college.
- Ringo Starr, drummer for the Beatles. He did not attend college.
- Gwen Stefani, singer and songwriter, No Doubt. Struggled in school. Never attended college. “School was just really hard for me. I didn’t want to fail. I wanted to be smart! But I was really dreaming. … It makes me sad when I think about it. I still have nightmares about tests.”
- Hiram Stevens, engineer, inventor. Dropped out of high school.
- Kristen Stewart, actress. Dropped out of school in the seventh grade to study independently. “That was a necessity. When I would go away to work, my teachers would only give me a portion of my schoolwork, and I would come home and they’d fail me. I was very happy to leave.”
- Patrick Stewart, actor, producer, director, writer. Dropped out of high school.
- Ben Stiller, actor, director, and producer. Went to the UCLA film school for nine months and then headed for Broadway. As he noted, “I was the guy who dropped out and moved back in with his parents.”
- Emma Stone, actress. At the age of 15, she gave her parents a PowerPoint presentation about ditching high school to pursue a career as an actress. Her mother accompanied her to Hollywood so she could become an actress.
- Edward D. Stone, architect. Dropped out of the University of Arkansas.
- Sharon Stone, Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-winning actress, producer, and model. Dropped out of Edinboro State University.
- W. Clement Stone, multimillionaire insurance businessman, founder of Success magazine, and author of a number of books on positive mental attitudes. At the age of six, he sold newspapers on the south side of Chicago. By the age of 13, he owned his own newsstand. He continued to work odd jobs until his mother bought a small insurance agency, where he helped her by selling insurance. At the age of 21, with $100 in his pocket, he established the Combined Registry Company insurance business which he built into a multi-million dollar business. He dropped out of elementary school but later attended high school night courses and some college.
- Hilary Swank, actress, swimmer, gymnast. Dropped out of South Pasadena High School to act professionally. When she was 15, she and her mother headed to Los Angeles with $75 in their pockets.
They lived out of their Oldsmobile Delta ’88 until she found work in TV.
- Mark Sykes, art dealer, gambler, bookie, gentleman, and rogue. Attended Oxford University for 18 months (primarily running highly profitable card games); then dropped out to gamble professionally.
- Jessica Szohr, actress. Has not yet attended college. “I moved from Wisconsin to L.A. when I was 18.” (CosmoGirl magazine)
- R.F. “Rawley” Taplett, founder of R.F. Taplett Fruit & Cold Storage Company, multi-millionaire investor. Had only a high school diploma.
- Channing Tatum, actor. Washed out of college in West Virginia at the age of 18. Became an actor after stints as a construction work, perfume spritzer, and model.
- Alfred Taubman, billionaire chairman of Sotheby, real estate investor, mall operator. Dropped out of the University of Michigan. Made his first fortune investing in shopping malls.
- Jack Crawford Taylor, billionaire founder of Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Dropped out of Washington University to serve as a fighter pilot in the Navy during World War II. Sold cars after the war before starting a car leasing company.
- Zachary Taylor, U.S. president, general. Little formal schooling. Home schooled. Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
- Timmy Teepell, chief of staff for Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. A product of home schooling, he never attended college.
- Kelly Thiebaud, model and actress. Her mother made her finish high school, but she never attended college. As she noted about
staying in high school, “At the time I hated it. There’s so much opportunity out there! But I’m thankful for it now, because the experience helped me stay grounded.”
- Danny Thomas, actor, producer, humanitarian. Dropped out of high school.
- Dave Thomas, billionaire founder of Wendy’s. As a youngster his family moved around a lot. While working as a busboy at the age of 15, he refused to move once again with the family. Instead, he dropped out of high school and went to work full time in a restaurant (moving in with the family that owned the restaurant).
- Billy Bob Thornton, actor. After taking some classes at Henderson State University in Arkansas, he dropped out and headed for New York City to become a rock star. Four years later, he headed to Los Angeles to become an actor.
- Kip Tindell, founder of the Container Store. Dropped out of the University of Texas. As he noted, “I crammed a four-year program into about eight years.”
- Leo Tolstoy, count, novelist (War and Peace, Anna Karenina). Dropped out after three years at the university.
- Marisa Tomei, Oscar-winning actress. Transferred from Boston University after one year to attend New York University, but dropped out within a year to continue her career as an actress.
- Adam and Matthew Toren, founders of YoungEntrepreneur.com. As they noted on their website, Entrepreneurs at an early age, Matthew and I had already started six (toot toot) businesses by the time we graduated high school. We were both offered college scholarships, but turned them down – it was clear to us that college was not in our future. Within a week of graduating high school, we bought a bar/café/billiards location, which we overhauled, re-branded and turned into a hot spot; and on the 12-month we sold it for a great profit.
- Nina Totenberg, radio show host. Dropped out of Boston University.
- Doris Eaton Travis, a Ziegfield Follies girl, actress, singer. Started at the Follies the day she finished eighth grade. Earned her high school diploma at the age of 77. Finally graduated from college at the age of 88.
- John Travolta, actor. His parents allowed him to drop out of Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, New Jersey for one year to pursue a theatrical career. He never returned.
- Derek Trucks, singer and musician. Attended high school on the road while playing for the Allman Brothers Band. Never attended college.
- Harry Truman, U.S. president. Never went to college.
- Isaac Tshuva, billionaire builder, industrialist, and hotelier. At the age of 12, he started working as a laborer to support his family while attending school at night. After three years in the army, he skipped college to begin working in construction.
- Harriet Tubman, abolitionist, former slave, humanitarian, spy, nurse, suffragist. Did not attend college. A big promoter of education even though she was illiterate.
- Frederick Tudor, the Ice King. Dropped out of school at the age of 13. After loafing for a few years, he retired to his family’s country estate to fish, farm, and hunt. Eventually, he began shipping ice from his Massachusetts pond to tropical countries for use in cooling drinks and making ice cream.
- Ted Turner, billionaire founder of CNN and TBS, owner of Atlanta Braves, philanthropist, America’s largest land owner with 1.8 million acres. Was asked to leave Brown University during his fourth year. Got suspended twice, once for having a girl in his room and he doesn’t remember the second reason. “I’m down to a little more than a billion. You can get by on that if you really economize and don’t buy a lot of planes and yachts and stuff.”
- Fred Tuttle, dairy farmer, actor. Dropped out of school in the 10th grade and spent most of his life as a farmer. Became a celebrity as a 77-year-old actor in the movie Man with a Plan.
- Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), printer, riverboat pilot, prospector, newspaper reporter, humorist, bestselling novelist. Left school a year after his father’s death, never went beyond the fifth grade. Nonetheless, he still wrote the first great American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- Jamie Tworkowski, surfer and founder of To Write Love on Her Arms. College drop-out. Also dropped out of high school but eventually went back to finish. “It wasn’t my choice to walk away from school. I was hanging around with guys older than me, and I’d skip school to play with them. I kept missing more and more school, and I got busted for it finally. But I went back. I felt like I’d be a real stooge if I didn’t at least finish high school.”
- Mike Tyson, heavyweight champion boxer; the first boxer to hold the WBA, WBC, and IBF heavyweight titles at the same time. Made his professional boxing debut at the age of 18. Never attended college.
- Albert Ueltschi, billionaire founder of FlightSafety International pilot training schools. Dropped out of the University of Kentucky to follow his passion, flying planes. After flying for PanAm for ten years, he founded FlightSafety.
- Donald Eugene Ulrich, aka Don Rich, country music guitarist and fiddler. Quit college to join The Buckaroos. The band had 19 #1 country hits during the 1960s.
- Leon Uris, bestselling novelist. Dropped out of high school at the age of 17 to join the U.S. Marines.
- Peter Ustinov, Oscar-winning actor. Dropped out of high school.
- Jay Van Andel, billionaire co-founder of Amway (now Alticor). Served in the Army after high school. Founded Amway along with his best friend Richard DeVos.
- Martin Van Buren, U.S. president. Little formal education. Began studying law at the age of 14 while apprenticing at a law firm. Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
- Cornelius Vanderbilt, railroad magnate and one of the wealthiest Americans of the mid-1800s. Had little formal schooling. Was considered uncouth and illiterate until he became too rich to ignore.
- Anton van Leeuwenhoek, microbiologist, microscope maker, discoverer of bacteria, blood cells, and sperm cells. Dropped out of high school.
- Jesse “The Body” Ventura, wrestler, actor, Minnesota governor. Dropped out of North Hennepin Community College after one year.
- Kat Von D, aka Katherine Von Drachenberg, reality TV star, tattoo artist, skateboard designer, developer of makeup line. Dropped out of school at the age of 14.
- Frank Vos, advertising executive, Frank Vos Agency. Did not finish college. But, when he retired, he sold his company and got a B.A. and M.A. in American history from Columbia University.
- Andy Wachowski, screenwriter, director, The Matrix. Dropped out of Emerson College.
- Larry Wachowski, screenwriter, director, The Matrix. Dropped out of Bard College.
- Donnie Wahlberg Jr., singer (New Kids on the Block), actor, music producer. Never attended college. Started his singing career at the age of 15.
- Mark Wahlberg, rapper (as Marky Mark), model, actor, producer. Dropped out of school for good at the age of 16.
- Theodore Waitt, billionaire founder of Gateway Computers. Dropped out of the University of Iowa one semester short of a degree to start Gateway with his older brother in 1985.
- Alfred Russel Wallace, naturalist, co-discover of evolutionary theory. Left school at the age of 14 to go to work to support his family. Wallace was self-taught, via frequent visits to libraries and workingman’s institutes, while working as a land surveyor, a builder, and a school teacher.
- DeWitt Wallace, founder and publisher of Reader’s Digest, philanthropist. Dropped out of Macalester College after one year. Dropped out of the University of California at Berkeley after the second year.
- Y.C. Wang, billionaire founder of Formosa Plastics. Never attended high school.
- Ty Warner, billionaire developer of Beanie Babies, hotel owner, real estate investor. Dropped out of college to go on the road selling plush toys.
- K’naan Warsame, aka K’naan the Skinny, Somali refugee, rapper, and rock star. Dropped out of high school after the 10th grade. Was featured in a $300 million worldwide advertising campaign by Coca-Cola.
- George Washington, U.S. president, general, plantation owner. Ended his education after a few years of elementary school. Of the 43 people who served as president of the United States, 8 never went to college.
- Keith Waterhouse, journalist, comic novelist, Billy Liar. Was inspired to drop out of school and become a writer after reading Mark Twain and P.G. Wodehouse.
- John Wayne, actor, attended the University of Southern California for two years on a football scholarship. He dropped out to work as a propman and stuntman for movie studios.
- Lil Wayne (Dwayne Carter), rapper. Never attended college.
- Michael Weatherly, actor, Dark Angel and NCIS. Dropped out of American University at the age of 21 to pursue acting full time.
- Sidney Weinberg, managing partner of Goldman Sachs, aka Mr. Wall Street. Dropped out of the seventh grade in Brooklyn.
- Jerry Weintraub, movie and music producer. Joined the Air Force instead of going to college. Later studied acting at Manhattan’s Neighborhood Playhouse.
- H.G. Wells, science fiction author. Dropped out of high school to help support his family. Eventually completed high school and went on to college.
- Kanye West, rapper. Had a hit album called The College Dropout.
- Leslie Wexner, billionaire founder of Limited Brands. Dropped out of Ohio State law school. Started the Limited with a $5,000 loan from an aunt.
- Dean White, billionaire hotelier and billboard magnate. Dropped out of the University of Nebraska to join the Merchant Marine Academy. Served during World War II. Then took over family business after the war and built it into a billboard and real estate empire.
- Shawn White, multi-millionaire Olympic snowboarder and X-Games skateboarder. Did not attend college. Turned pro in skateboarding at the age of 16.
- Walt Whitman, poet, self-publisher. Elementary school dropout.
- Kristen Wiig, comedienne, actress. Took an acting class her freshman year at the University of Arizona, got the acting bug, dropped out after one year and headed to Los Angeles to make it as an actress.
- Michelle Williams, actress. Was legally emancipated at the age of 15 from her family. Never went to college.
- Bruce Willis, actor. Dropped out of the theater program of Montclair State University after his junior year. He asserts that a college diploma “is just a trophy. I have some bowling trophies I think would be worth about the same thing.”
- Gretchen Wilson, country singer. Quit school after the eighth grade. Finally earned her GED equivalency degree in 2009. “I’ve wanted to go back and get my GED for years, ever since I quit school after the eighth grade. I had a troubled childhood and I just wanted to get out of the house and on with life as quickly as possible. And back then I thought it wasn’t important to have a high school diploma to chase my music dreams. But I always knew that finishing high school would make me feel a little more complete.” (Redbook magazine)
- Kemmons Wilson, multimillionaire founder of Holiday Inns. Dropped out of high school.
- Owen Wilson, actor, screenwriter. Dropped out of the University of Texas.
- Woodrow Wilson, U.S. president, college president. Dropped out of Davidson College, but eventually graduated from Princeton University.
- Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief, Vogue magazine. Did not attend college.
- Reese Witherspoon, Oscar-winning actress and model. Starred in her first film at the age of 14. Enrolled in Stanford University but dropped out to pursue acting full time.
- Tyrone Wood, director of Scream Gallery, son of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. Education: “The school of life.”
- Tiger Woods, golfer. Turned pro at the age of 20 after attending Stanford University for a year or two.
- Steve Wozniak, billionaire co-founder of Apple. Dropped out of
- Frank Lloyd Wright, architect, interior designer, leader of the Prairie School of architecture. Voted as the greatest American architect of all time by the American Institute of Architects. Attended a high school in Madison, Wisconsin, but apparently never graduated. He was admitted to the University of Wisconsin as a special student and took classes part-time for two semesters. He left school without getting a degree. He left to work at an architectural firm in Chicago, Illinois.
- Orville Wright, inventor of the airplane. Dropped out of high school in his junior year to open a printing business.
- Wilbur Wright, inventor of the airplane. Completed four years of high school but never received his diploma. Did not attend college.
- Noah Wyle, actor. Never attended college. After private high school, he went straight to Hollywood to pursue a career as an actor.
- Ed Wynn, comedian and actor. Left home at the age of 16 to join a theater company.
- Jerry Yang, billionaire co-founder of Yahoo! Dropped out of Stanford University PhD program to create Yahoo!
- Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), rapper, entrepreneur, owner of Rocawear clothing, co-owner of New Jersey Nets basketball team. Never attended college. “I’m a thinker. I figure things out. I don’t have a high level of education, but I’m practical–and I have great instincts.”
- Babe Didrikson Zaharias, golfer, basketball player, Olympic track and field star. Did not attend college.
- Frank Zappa, rock musician. Probably dropped out of college. As he noted in liner notes for his Freak Out album, “Drop out of school before your mind rots from our mediocre educational system.”
- Catherine Zeta-Jones, actress. Dropped out of school at the age of 15 to join a touring production of The Pajama Game.
- Emile Zola, French novelist. Failed his baccalaureate, which I believe is the French way of saying he did not graduate from college.
- Mark Zuckerberg, billionaire founder of Facebook. Dropped out of Harvard to continue working on the social networking website he founded in his dorm room in 2004. Facebook has more than 300 million users.
So what are we teaching our students? Are there courses on how to become a billionaire, or an inventor? Are they teaching students in schools how to think out ahead of the curve? No. They are teaching people to work for billionaires, and inventors, and actors, and creative genius. How many Frank Lloyd Wrights have colleges produced in design courses? How many Steven Spielberg’s have film schools produced. How many colleges have film classes that study Stanley Kubrick, yet Kubrick never went to college.
I’ve been in the work place for a number of years, and I’ve worked with hundreds of kid’s right out of college that hadn’t even begun their education yet. In fact, many of them don’t yet possess the real life understanding that makes them efficient employees straight out of college. They have an understanding of the function of their profession, but not real life application. The worst are the “professional” students who come out of college with a master’s degree but very little actual work experience. What many of these people have in common is a genuine fear of the real world, and they crave the safety and controlled circumstances of academia. That’s my personal take, and source for my beliefs. I’m all for an education if people want to spend their money on it. But I don’t see the current education system creating the exceptional individuals every company wants to hire. The best explanation I’ve ever heard to explain the reason for this was in the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
My personal education continues each day, and I would say that I am a lover of books and learning. But I also like to question. And with these facts, many questions must be asked, among which; how much are we willing to spend on education? What do we really want from it?
This is what people are saying about my new book–Tail of the Dragon